UN says millions without help in Pakistan floods

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The Independent Online

Many of about 20 million people affected by flooding in Pakistan have yet to receive any assistance despite a growing international relief effort, the U.N. said Tuesday as authorities warned that the swollen Indus River may burst its banks again in coming days.



The country is reeling under one of its worst-ever natural disasters, testing the already shaky government just as the United States wants it to focus on the war against al-Qaida and the Taliban. About a fifth of the country has been affected since the floods began three weeks ago.



Local charities and international agencies have rushed food, water, shelter and medical treatment to the worst-hit areas in the northwest and Punjab and Sindh provinces. But aid agencies and the British government have complained that the international response to the disaster has not been generous enough.



The World Bank said it would provide $900 million to Pakistan to help it rebuild from the floods. A bank statement said the money was being redirected from ongoing and planned projects in the country but did not say whether it was a loan or a gift.



Many victims are living in makeshift camps alongside their livestock or in flooded towns and villages.



"The vast geographical extent of the floods and affected populations meant that many people have yet to be reached with the assistance they desperately need," the U.N. said in a statement.



The world body also said the number of children and breast-feeding mothers affected and rising diarrhea cases "point toward a clear risk of malnutrition among the affected population."



The floods have killed about 1,500 people and inundated 1.7 million acres (700,000 hectares) of wheat, sugar cane and rice crops, raising the prospect of food shortages in the coming months in the already-poor nation. Prices of food have risen sharply across the country since the floods began.



Authorities in Sindh province said more floods were likely over the next 24 to 48 hours.



"The next two days are crucial for the safety of people," said Sindh's irrigation minister, Jam Saifullah Dharejo.

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