Agency Warns of Threats from Slow Donor Response to Pakistan Disaster

The international community has so far committed close to $229.5 million in support and another $142 million in additional pledges for responses to Pakistan's devastating flooding disaster.

But those pledge amounts alone are insufficient to cover even the initial three-month relief needs outlined by the United Nations, noted an official for the global relief and development agency Church World Service.

"[D]isasters can't be measured by just the number of dead," said Donna Derr, CWS's director of Humanitarian Assistance.

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"Effective humanitarian response must be measured against the all the people affected, just struggling to survive," she added.

According to the United Nations, 20 million people have been affected by the recent flooding, which first hit three weeks ago after extremely heavy monsoon rains.

Furthermore, many of those affected have yet to receive emergency aid.

"There are so many people who are in grave difficulty," reported Anila Gill, national executive secretary of Caritas Pakistan.

"It's such a traumatic situation for those who have lost everything and who have to rely on others even for a drink of water," Gill added.

To make matters worse, authorities say the swollen Indus River may burst its banks again in coming days as the Pakistani government continues to struggle to cope with the scale of the worst floods in the country's history.

In a report, Caritas said the sheer number of people affected means that the difficulties will persist long after the waters have dried up.

Presently, the priority for aid workers and organizations has been to ensure people have food, water, shelter and medical help.

Church World Service officials urged a more robust response from the international donor community to help support efforts in Pakistan, where they say millions risk sinking deeper into chronic poverty for the next generation, compromising human rights and basic needs.

And last week, the United Nations appealed for $459 million for immediate relief efforts. It said Tuesday that it has received 40 percent - about $184 million - of that so far. An additional $43 million, meanwhile, has been pledged.

To date, the floods in Pakistan have killed about 1,500 people and inundated 1.7 million acres 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 since the floods began.

On Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the flooding in Pakistan was the worst natural disaster he had ever seen. The U.N. has voiced fears that disease in overcrowded and unsanitary relief camps may yet cause more deaths.

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