Britain is to more than double the amount of aid it is giving Pakistan to cope with the devastation wreaked by the recent flooding, the International Development Secretary told the United Nations last night.
Andrew Mitchell, speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York, promised an extra £33m would be available to help with providing food, clean drinking water, medicine and shelter. It comes on top of the £31.3m already allocated.
He arrived in the US direct from a visit to Pakistan, where he saw for himself the "sheer and shocking magnitude of this catastrophe". An estimated 20 million people have been affected by the floods.
The promise to double Britain's aid came after a warning by Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's President, that Islamic terrorists may exploit the chaos and misery if foreign countries fail to respond quickly and effectively in offering assistance. "[They could] take the babies who have been made orphans and take them to their camps and train them as the terrorists of tomorrow," he warned.
The US joined Britain in pledging extra money during the UN meeting. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, pledged an extra $60m (£39m), bringing its total to more than $150m.
Mr Mitchell told the UN last night that there was "a dire need for more help" and described the level of assistance offered by the world community so far as "unacceptable". He urged governments to do more and is to hold a series of meetings with ministers from other nations urging them to commit more funds and practical aid.
"It is clear that unless more aid is delivered now, many more people will die from disease and malnutrition," he told the Assembly. "It is deeply depressing that the international community is only now waking up to the true scale of this disaster.
"I am in New York to urge the rest of the world to follow the example of those countries that have increased their support in recent days. The wealthiest nations – especially those in the G8 – have a duty to step up their response dramatically." He insisted, though, that the money from Britain will only be handed to partner organisations that can demonstrate they will use it effectively.
Aid from Britain is already helping more than three million people in the flood-hit areas of Pakistan, he said. By doubling the package Britain should be able to provide clean water to 500,000 people, food to 380,000, shelter to 170,000 and health services for up to 2.4 million during the emergency and reconstruction.
Donations by the British public have reached £24m, the Disasters Emergency Committee said.