The Cable

Clinton and Shah promise long- term U.S. commitment to Pakistani disaster relief

As the flood crisis in Pakistan’s Swat Valley worsens, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development are promising an extended mission to deal with the longer-term effects, the leaders of both organizations said Wednesday. "Our commitment to Pakistan and the Pakistani people is a long-term, enduring commitment," USAID administrator Rajiv Shah told ...

As the flood crisis in Pakistan’s Swat Valley worsens, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development are promising an extended mission to deal with the longer-term effects, the leaders of both organizations said Wednesday.

"Our commitment to Pakistan and the Pakistani people is a long-term, enduring commitment," USAID administrator Rajiv Shah told reporters Wednesday morning. "As part of that, an absolute commitment to protect Pakistani people who are suffering from this tremendous disaster is one way to express the American commitment to Pakistan and the people of Pakistan… The president and the secretary have asked us to be aggressive and coordinated in providing immediate relief, but we will not stop at immediate relief."

According to the latest reports, over 1,500 people have died as a result of the flooding, with hundreds more missing. Pakistani officials said over 300,000 people have been displaced.

The U.S. contribution to the relief effort has already been massive, with the U.S. flying in hundreds of thousands of meals flown in on helicopters and supply planes and bringing water- purification equipment, makeshift bridges, and other emergency supplies into the area.

Over the longer term, Shah said, the United States will help with rebuilding infrastructure and housing, which could take years. "And consistent with the strategic dialogue, we intend to be supportive over that longer time frame," he said. He did not say what resources would be used toward that commitment.

The U.S. is also helping to set up a disease early warning system to help prevent the spread of ailments that could result from the hundreds of thousands of victims living in makeshift or unsanitary housing due to the floods. The U.S. effort, much of which is being coordinated by USAID, will also include standing up field hospitals and restocking clinics from a U.S.-owned warehouse in Dubai.

Shah said that hundred of USAID staff are being mobilized to help with the response and that some of the planning and assessments were being done by the U.S. military in cooperation with the Pakistani government.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking along with Shah, said that disaster relief was part of the new strengthening of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and she touted the strategic dialogue between the two countries.

"We’ve been working hard over the past year to build a partnership with the people of Pakistan. And this is an essential element of that partnership: reaching out and helping each other in times of need," she said.

Reporters at the briefing couldn’t resist asking Clinton about her daughter Chelsea’s wedding last weekend.

"Oh, it was wonderful," she said.

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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