South Asia

UN launches $2bn appeal for Pakistan flood victims

A family at a temporary camp in Sindh province, Pakistan (16 Sept 2010)
Image caption Millions of people lost everything they owned in the disaster

The UN has launched an appeal for more than $2bn (£1.3bn) to help Pakistani flood victims, its largest ever response to a natural disaster.

The widespread flooding has affected some 20 million people in an area larger than England.

UN officials said the amount of money requested reflected "the enormous human and geographic scale" of the disaster.

The funds, which include $500m already raised, will be used to help up to 14 million people over a period of a year.

The cash will fund projects carried out by 15 UN bodies and more than 100 aid agencies.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said countries around the world had been "extremely generous" and that the government and people of Pakistan had "already done much to help families affected by these floods".

But she said Pakistan was "seeing the equivalent of a new disaster every few days" as rivers continued to burst their banks in some areas.

"We simply cannot stand by and watch the immense suffering in a disaster of this scale," she said.

"Our task is to give people the help they need."

Slow start

Nearly $500m was raised in the previous UN appeal, set up in the aftermath of the flooding, so the actual amount still to be raised is $1.6bn.

Millions of people have lost everything, there is immense damage to infrastructure, and Pakistan's development prospects may be disrupted for years.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says hundreds of thousands of people lost shops and small businesses and that farmers who are unable to plant crops in the next planting season could be dependent on aid until well into 2012.

Health officials have also warned of a looming health crisis as a result of waterborne diseases and poor living conditions among displaced people.

Aid has been coming in, but it got off to a slow start and has been hard to maintain, partly because the crisis has gone on for so long, say the BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN.

Officials say they need to work harder to keep Pakistan's pressing needs on the international agenda.

The extensive damage is a daunting challenge for the country's weak government and fragile economy, our correspondent adds.

But the US envoy to Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, has stressed that the authorities will have to generate more revenue, saying aid alone will not be able to rebuild the country.