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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

New UN humanitarian chief spends first day at work in flood-hit Pakistan

7 September 2010 – The newly-appointed United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos arrived in Pakistan today, her first day on the job, to witness the humanitarian response to the flood disaster and encourage more donor support to the millions of people affected across the length of the South Asian country.

“Humanitarian work is about reaching people affected by crises, providing emergency assistance, and supporting them through the most difficult times,” said Ms. Amos, who is also the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

“The floods here in Pakistan have affected almost 21 million people – it is one of the biggest humanitarian crises the world has seen,” she said.

UN agencies and their humanitarian partners, working alongside the Pakistani Government, have already reached millions of affected people with life-saving assistance and are working to assist many millions more. Organizations responding to the crisis initially requested $460 million from donors to cover basic needs. So far just $294 million has been received – 64 percent of what is needed.

“After a strong start, funding for the Pakistan floods response seems to have reached a plateau,” said Ms. Amos. “New donations have dropped to just $20 million over the last two weeks. It is both worrying and disappointing that this is happening when the needs continue to rise and the suffering is still so evident. I urge donors to dig deeper – we will need their support for months to come,” she added.

Ms. Amos, whose mission to Pakistan will last three days, today met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, and the Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority Nadeem Ahmad. She also met representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN officials.

Pakistan’s floods, which started at the end of July, continue to displace hundreds of thousands in some areas, while in other parts of the country, affected people are struggling to rebuild their lives, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The death toll from the floods has risen to 1,752 and over 1.8 million houses are now categorized as either damaged or destroyed.

In a related development, UN Goodwill Ambassador and award-winning Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie arrived in Pakistan on Sunday and today began visiting flood-hit areas to highlight the plight of those affected.

Ms. Jolie, who will is visiting affected communities as the personal envoy of António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will continue her tour of the country tomorrow, meeting aid workers involved in relief efforts.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), meanwhile, is warning that thousands of flood-affected pregnant women face the risk of death and disability unless relief efforts can be scaled up quickly to meet their needs.

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