Pakistan seeks UN help as flood aid for survivors drains

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s foreign minister is seeking the United Nations’ help securing long-term aid for survivors of deadly, record-breaking floods before recovery funds run out next month, Pakistani officials said Friday.

That grim threshold could come as soon as Jan. 15, according to Chris Kaye, the country director for the World Food Program. Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said Friday that he’s seeking the U.N.’s support for raising money from “key donors, development institutions and the private sector” to refuel the recovery effort. Kaye said that without new aid, the looming depletion would mark “a very serious crisis ahead of us as we go into 2023.”

He told a news conference in the capital, Islamabad, along with the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Julien Harneis on Thursday, that the number of people in Pakistan in need of critical food assistance is likely to increase the previously estimated 4 million people to 5.1 million during the winter. According to U.N. officials in Pakistan, the international body has only received a third of the $816 million in emergency aid it sought in October.

The winter chill is contributing urgency to the crisis, he said. Some of the supply from the World Food Program was recently looted by flood victims in a water-ravaged area in Pakistan’s Khairpur district in the southern Sindh province, where the floods affected 12 million people and killed 796.

“People are desperate and we need to help them,” he said.

Meanwhile, authorities in Pakistan are trying to arrange funds to provide shelter and food to flood victims amid winter. Bhutto Zardari said Friday that he met with the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The leader of the international body “reaffirmed full support and cooperation of the UN, both for ongoing humanitarian relief work as well as for long-term recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction” work in Pakistan’s flood-hit areas, Bhutto Zardari said.

Bhutto Zardari also met with Guterres on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting of Group of 77, a coalition of 134 mainly developing nations and China, in New York. Bhutto-Zardari said he also thanked the U.N. chief for agreeing to co-host an international conference on “climate resilient Pakistan” in Geneva early next month.

The climate-induced floods since mid-June have killed more than 1,700 people. Pakistani officials say 23,000 survivors are still living in tents in flood-hit areas in Sindh province.

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