South Asian civil society activists ask governments to establish disaster relief fund to provide help to Pakistani people

Civil society activists of all the eight countries of South Asia here on 6th September2010, demand their respective governments to establish a disaster relief fund to provide help to flood-hit Pakistani people.

Address a joint press conference at a hotel in Kathmandu the human rights and peace activists deplored the response of South Asian countries towards flood disaster of Pakistan was very disappointing. They also demanded the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to activate its mechanisms like SAARC Food Bank and SAARC Disaster Management Centre.

The SAARC civil society leaders, who were in Kathamdu to attend three-day Annual General Meeting of South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) said South Asian countries need to share their surplus food stocks with Pakistani people, who feared to face food insecurity due to floods.

Speaking on the occasion, the Coordinator of SAAPE Arjun Karki said according to official data over two thousand people have died and more than a million homes have been destroyed since the flooding began in July from Pakistan’s Khyber Pukhtukhwa province.

Karamat Ali, Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) said out of a total of 124 districts, 79 have been affected by floods. These include 24 districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 19 in Sindh, 12 in Punjab, 10 in Balochistan and seven each in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. More than 20 million people across the country have been affected by the floods.

He pointed out that Government of Pakistan estimates economic losses inflicted by the floods were at $43 billion and about 20 million people have been affected and 7.5 million of them had been displaced.

United Nations agencies and the National Disaster Management Authority estimate that crops over 1.38 million acres have been washed away and 1.2 million homes destroyed. Agriculture sector might face the adverse effects for another year, which may cause serious threat of food insecurity.  The destruction to public infrastructure is also very enormous. The government assessed 968 health facilities and out of that 517 have been damaged. Similarly, over 10,600 schools have been destroyed by rains and floods.
He appreciated the goodwill gestures and aid offered by the Indian, Nepal, Afghanistan, Maldives and Bangladesh governments, but at the same time, he regretted the delayed response from Pakistan government and its reluctance to accept the aid directly from India. The civil society of India had also offered to send medical teams and medicines to flood-hit areas, but Pakistan government has not yet responded positively, he added.

Those who also spoke on the occasion included Babu Mathew (India), Imad Mohamed (Maldives), Nimalka Fernando (Sri Lanka), Arezoo Qanih (Afghanistan), Mohiuddin Ahmad (Bangladesh) and Arun Rai (Bhutan).

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