More than $800m (£515m) has been donated or pledged to help Pakistan's flood victims, its Foreign Minister said yesterday, as hundreds of thousands of people in the south feared more destruction. Rising waters in Sindh province threatened to wreak havoc in Pakistan in a catastrophe that has made the government more unpopular and may help Islamist militants gain supporters.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed gratitude for the $815.58m in international assistance to ease the suffering from one of the worst disasters in Pakistan's history. "In such a situation, when the West and Europe and America are in recession and donor fatigue is being discussed, this kind of solidarity for Pakistan, I think, is very encouraging," he told a news conference in Islamabad. The UN had appealed for $459m in initial response funds.
The worst floods in decades have destroyed villages, bridges and roads made more than four million homeless and raised concerns that militants will exploit the misery and chaos. Saleh Farooqui, director general of the disaster management authority in Sindh, said floods have hit at least four districts, including urban areas, forcing about 200,000 people to flee for higher ground in the last 24 hours. "The south part of Sindh is our focus. We have diverted our resources for rescue operations towards that area," he said.
Officials expect the floodwaters will recede nationwide in the next few days as the last river torrents empty into the Arabian Sea, state news agency APP reported. But when that happens, millions of Pakistanis will almost certainly want the government, which was already constrained by a fragile economy, to quickly deliver homes and compensation for the loss of livestock and crops.
The government has been accused of moving too slowly, and Islamist charities, some with suspected links to militant groups, have moved rapidly to provide relief to Pakistanis, already frustrated with their leaders' track record on security, poverty and chronic power shortages. "My village has been inundated," said Shazia Bibi, standing outside a government health centre in Punjab province. "We travelled several hours in a bullcart and now the dispensary is locked. Where can I take my husband? He cannot sleep because of pain. Whatever he eats he vomits it."
The flood has been spreading through the rice-growing belt in the north of Sindh, district by district, breaking through or flowing over embankments. The Sindh town of Shahdadkot was largely deserted. Most shops were shuttered, but some said they still would not leave. People used tree branches and sandbags to plug holes in an embankment. "This is the place where I earn my bread and butter," said shopkeeper Mohammad Jaffar. "I live here and will die here."
Pakistan said last week the floods meant the country would miss this year's 4.5 per cent gross domestic product growth target, and its fiscal deficit is now projected to widen to more than 8 per cent of GDP. Floods caused widespread crop damage.
The International Monetary Fund said it would review Pakistan's budget and economic prospects in light of the disaster in talks with government officials today.
The meetings in Washington will focus on a $10bn IMF programme agreed in 2008, and the budget and macroeconomic prospects will be reviewed because of the magnitude of the flood disaster, officials said. Reuters
Top 10 donors
1 USA: $102m (£66m)
2 Saudi Arabia: $65m
3 Britain: $65m
4 European Commission: $54m
5 Australia: $32m
6 UN emergency fund: $17m
7 Norway: $15m
8 Japan: $14m
9 Germany: $12m
10 Turkey: $12m
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