New aid for Pakistan comes with calls for accountability

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 19, 2010 (AFP) - World powers made fresh aid pledges for Pakistan's flood disaster on Sunday, after a two-billion-dollar UN appeal, but pressed the stricken nation to fully account for the money.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an "urgent" global response to "one of the biggest, most complex natural disasters we have faced in the history of the United Nations."

While the official death toll remains at just over 1,700 people, UN agencies say about 21 million people have been affected and 12 million need emergency food aid.

Torrential rain began falling in northern Pakistan in late July and the floods have since been moving slowly south, wiping out villages and farmland.

Britain doubled its flood aid to 210 million dollars, the United States said it is now offering 340 million and the European Union 350 million.

Saudi Arabia said it has also donated 345 million in government and public funds. Even Iran allotted 100 million dollars for its neighbor.

But it was not immediately clear whether the two-billion-dollar target was reached at the meeting of over 25 top ministers, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Aid groups expressed disappointment at the response.

The UN asked for 460 million dollars in August but quadrupled the figure on Friday because of the scope of the disaster.

"This new appeal extends the emergency relief to six months and includes the crucial element of early recovery for the next 12 months. I call for your urgent response," the UN chief said.

"The floods in Pakistan are a global disaster, a global challenge and a global test of solidarity.

"Of course, we know this is happening in a part of the world where stability and prosperity are profoundly in the world's interests," he added.

Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmad, head of Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority, said the country had only 20 percent of the food and 20 percent of the water needed for the stricken 20 million people.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the world community should multiply the impact of Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005 by 100 times to understand the scope of the devastation.

Britain added 70 million pounds to its existing 64 million pounds in emergency aid, taking the total to about 210 million dollars.

"Grave challenges lie ahead as people in Pakistan begin to recover from the floods," said Britain's International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, announcing the biggest single new offer of the meeting.

Clinton said the United States has already provided about 345 million dollars in assistance, through cash, emergency relief and rescue work by US forces usually operating in Pakistan to back up the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

She highlighted, however, that Pakistan must becoming more self-sufficient and raise more domestic money for reconstruction.

Clinton said the United States would help its ally "bring transparency, oversight and accountability to the reconstruction."

Other major donors also pressed for more transparency to tackle rampant corruption in Pakistan.

"It is critical for the government to ensure full transparency of cash flow," Tadamichi Yamamoto, Japan's special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, told the meeting.

Germany's Development Minister Dirk Niebel said Pakistan must be "realistic" and raise more of its own money to rebuild the country.

Qureshi vowed that "every dollar will be spent in the most efficient manner and the most transparent and accountable manner."

He said economic reforms were being undertaken to raise more money from the Pakistani population to rebuild the country.

Surendrini Wijeyaratne, a policy advisor for Oxfam, said the aid community felt "let down" by the UN appeal, saying it was insufficient to cover Pakistan's needs and lamenting that donor countries often delay putting the money in the bank, thus preventing critical relief work from going ahead.

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