UK 'shaming world' on Pakistan appeal

Pa
Monday 23 August 2010 12:12
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Donations from the British public to help flood victims in Pakistan reached £29 million today, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said.

Chief executive Brendan Gormley said it was the first time that donations had risen in the second week of an appeal.

"The UK public are leading the way and shaming politicians across the world," he said.

"We want the rest of the international community to back that sustained giving."

The worst floods to hit the country in decades have left more than 1,500 people dead and an estimated 20 million homeless.

An appeal to help the stricken country was launched two and a half weeks ago by DEC, an umbrella organisation representing 13 leading UK aid agencies.

It is the first time in the DEC's 45-year history that donations rose rather than fell during the second week of an appeal.

Donations to the Haiti Earthquake Appeal dropped by 28% in the second week of the appeal, those to the Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam Appeal fell 62%, Myanmar donations dropped by 54% and for the Tsunami the second week fall was 24%.

Donations to the Pakistan Floods Appeal, which was launched on August 5, increased by 18% in the second week and have not yet started dropping.

Mr Gormley said: "It is sometimes harder to fully appreciate the impact of disasters such as floods that take longer to develop.

"However, the response of the UK public to the floods in Pakistan has been extraordinary. We have never seen anything like it in our 45-year history.

"This is a tragedy unfolding in slow motion with new areas still being flooded and the threat of deadly waterborne disasters stalking millions of survivors.

"The full impact of the disaster will only be revealed when flood waters finally recede and the extent of devastation is uncovered."

The death toll was said to have risen to 1,600 today but Jane Cocking, humanitarian director of Oxfam, said it could rise sharply if there is a significant outbreak of waterborne disease and those affected are unable to get swift medical care.

DEC member agencies and their partners have so far helped more than 800,000 people.

Ms Cocking, speaking at a press conference in central London, said the rough estimate was that 25% of people who were directly affected had not yet received "something significant".

Priorities were clean water, sanitation, food and medical care, she said.

Ms Cocking, who visited Pakistan last week, choked back tears as she described how one "tough" old man broke down when he was asked how he planned to get through the winter.

The scenes were the worst she had seen in more than 20 years in humanitarian work, including 13 years with Oxfam.

The appeal was not for one disaster but for "a catastrophe" made up of several disasters, she said.

The flash floods which had swept away homes, farms and roads were one disaster.

The "lakes of potential disease" caused by standing water were the next problem.

Finally there was the help needed for those downstream who are shoring themselves up against "the wave that may hit them".

She added: "We do need more support. We know that times are hard for a lot of people in the UK but really, honestly, if people can give that little bit more, it'll go to people who desperately need it now."

Mr Gormley said the scale of the disaster was "beyond our worst nightmares" but UK charities were well placed to help because they have worked in Pakistan for many years.

"UK charities are leading the response on the ground," he said.

"We are absolutely clear they can get the money and the goods and the response through."

The press conference, held at the BT Tower, also heard from Ashraf Mall, the Pakistan manager for the charity Tearfund.

Speaking via a videolink from Sindh province, he said: "The situation is getting worse by each passing day.

"People are really desperate, waiting for help, many people are getting ill especially children."

He had hospitals were "full to capacity" and he had recently visited a village where two children had died from gastroenteritis.

He said a "huge wall of water" had passed through the area, adding: "People are fighting a lost battle."

Mr Mall said it would be two weeks before the water started draining and could take six months before areas dried out.

"It may be two years in some areas until people can start rebuilding their lives."

Mr Mall thanked the UK public for the donations so far.

"I would appeal to them to continue to support the people in Pakistan who are desperately in need of their help and support."

To make a donation people can call the 24-hour hotline on 0370 60 60 900, visit http://www.dec.org.uk or donate over the counter at any post office or high street bank, or send a cheque.

They can also donate £5 by texting the word GIVE to 70707.

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