Translating sympathy into cash for Pakistan’s flood victims

Faced with simultaneous natural disasters, the U.N.’s chief relief coordinator John Holmes sought to jar the world’s governments into focusing attention on the massive flooding in Pakistani, saying it has affected more than 14 million people, more than any other natural catastrophe in recent history. Holmes and Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon sought to ...

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Faced with simultaneous natural disasters, the U.N.'s chief relief coordinator John Holmes sought to jar the world's governments into focusing attention on the massive flooding in Pakistani, saying it has affected more than 14 million people, more than any other natural catastrophe in recent history.

Holmes and Pakistan's U.N. ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon sought to dramatize the massive scale of the flooding as part of a public relations campaign to raise $460 million from foreign governments to respond to the crisis. In a joint press conference, they said Pakistan's worst flood in 80 years has killed at least 1,200 people, destroyed thousands of villages, washed out several hundred bridges and wiped out a huge portion of the country's cotton and wheat crops.

Faced with simultaneous natural disasters, the U.N.’s chief relief coordinator John Holmes sought to jar the world’s governments into focusing attention on the massive flooding in Pakistani, saying it has affected more than 14 million people, more than any other natural catastrophe in recent history.

Holmes and Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon sought to dramatize the massive scale of the flooding as part of a public relations campaign to raise $460 million from foreign governments to respond to the crisis. In a joint press conference, they said Pakistan’s worst flood in 80 years has killed at least 1,200 people, destroyed thousands of villages, washed out several hundred bridges and wiped out a huge portion of the country’s cotton and wheat crops.

"It’s like going back to primordial history," Haroun told reporters.

The presentation underscored the challenges of translating international sympathy for victims of far-flung major humanitarian crisis into cash, particularly at a time when massive fires have struck Russia, and flooding and landslides have killed several hundred in China. Many U.S. relief agencies are continuing to provide basic relief for the victims of the worst earthquake to Haiti in 200 years.

Holmes said the impact of the rains in Pakistan will only worsen with monsoon conditions expected to continue for another month. He expressed concern that a shortage of clean water, sanitation, and medical care could lead to spread of deadly water born diseases, including diarrhea.

"The destruction is not over — far from it," Holmes warned donor states, who have already pledged about $150 million to relief efforts. "The flood wave now continues its way through the southern Sindh province, where millions more are expected to suffer…The monsoon could last for another month."

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Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch

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