Friday, August 13, 2010

NPR: U.N. Appeals For More Aid For Flood-Hit Pakistan

Originally posted August 11, 2010 @ NPR.org

[Breaking News English Lesson on UN Appeals for More Aid - by Sean Banville]

After heavy flooding in Pakistan's northwest, that country's military is trying to respond to damage and humanitarian needs. The United Nations is appealing for more international aid, and the U.S. has added to its commitment. But many people are still without food, drinkable water and shelter. NPR's Melissa Block talks to Azizullah Khan, a reporter with the BBC's Urdu Service, about the situation.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: [Download MP3 of the story below]

Tens of thousands of Pakistani troops are responding to the worst floods in that country's history. At least 1,500 people have already died, and the flood crest is still working its way south, along the Indus River. The United Nations is calling for more international aid. Today, the U.S. added more than $16 million to its pledge, raising the total above $71 million. Millions of people have been affected by the pounding monsoon rains and floods, and many have yet to see help.

Azizullah Khan reports for the BBC's Urdu Service. He spoke with me today from Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province.

Mr. AZIZULLAH KHAN (Reporter, Urdu Service, BBC): I saw many villages have been washed out. I have seen many people are residing on the motorway in between the roads, and they have set their tents in that road.

BLOCK: You're saying that the people who've managed to escape the floodwaters are setting up camp or seeking shelter on the roads themselves?

Mr. KHAN: Yeah, because other areas are totally washed out. I can give you the example of only one city. This is Dera Ismail Khan, the most southern city from Peshawar. More than 500 villages have been damaged and 123 villages were totally washed out. I have seen a village where only one mosque was left and other houses were destroyed, and people got refuge on top of that mosque and they were looking for some aids. So people should come and get them away from this area.

BLOCK: Mr. Khan, are you seeing any signs of an organized relief operation bringing food or clean drinking water or shelter to all these people who've been flooded?

Mr. KHAN: Although there are efforts, but so far I have talked to many affected and they were saying that they are not receiving anything so far. I have seen many people who have got refuge under big vehicles. They are sitting under these vehicles.

Many small children were lying on the roads. They were sleeping on the roads and they have noting. The affected are looking for food, for potable water is one of the major problem in many areas. We have seen many people who do not have clothing and they were looking for the shoes because you can't walk on these roads without shoes. So this is the situation so far.

BLOCK: As this crisis is unfolding in Pakistan, President Zardari was traveling in Europe, it included a stop at his family's chateau in France. And he's come under a lot of criticism for not being home during the floods. He says that it might have been important symbolically for him to be at home, but he said hungry people can't eat symbols, and he was able to raise money in this trip overseas for flood relief.

What are you hearing from people about the government's response, and in particular, the president?

Mr. KHAN: Yeah. The people are blaming the government because they need food and basic amenities. But there is certain political circles - they are saying that the president should be present. But they do not need Zardari to come and sit with them in the villages. They need those things that could be survived in during such critical situation.

BLOCK: There is this fear, too, that with this vacuum created by the government's response being so inadequate, that militant Islamic charities are filling that gap, providing relief where the government is not.

Mr. KHAN: Actually, the areas I have visited so far, I have never seen those militant organizations supporting these people to cover that vacuum. I have seen the international organization. I have seen the vehicles of the Save the Children Program, similarly other like ICRC and...

BLOCK: The Red Cross.

Mr. KHAN: The Red Cross, yes. The Red Cross, I'm talking about. Similarly, local organizations, they are working in most parts of the Pakistan. But these supports are very, very minimal. People need very huge amount of food and other things.

If I can compare, they are giving five to 10 percent aid or relief activities, whereas 80 to 90 percent area still needs support and the food from the government side, from the organization or from the individuals.

BLOCK: I've been talking with Azizullah Khan. He's a reporter for the BBC Urdu Service in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province.

Mr. Khan, thanks very much.

Mr. KHAN: Thank you very much.