October 26, 2005

UN aid drive for Pakistan falls short

By Thomas Atkins

GENEVA (Reuters) - Half a billion dollars of new aid was
pledged to rebuild earthquake-hit Pakistan on Wednesday after a
U.N. fund-raising drive, but emergency cash to help survivors
through winter snows fell far short of U.N. goals.

The U.N. recorded $580 million in new aid pledges by donor
governments at an emergency conference held in Geneva designed
to whip up support for the millions left without food or
shelter in the freezing Himalayas after the October 8 quake.

But only $15.8 million of that was new cash earmarked for a
emergency push to feed and house millions of survivors exposed
to the coming Himalayan winter, leaving the United Nations with
only 20 percent of its "flash appeal" funding goals met.

"The good news is that we have very good pledges. The bad
news is that we still have too few concrete commitments to the
U.N. flash appeal," U.N. emergency relief coordinator Jan
Egeland told a news conference.

The funding shortfall raises the spectre that millions of
Pakistanis left homeless by the devastating quake will face
hypothermia or disease as snows block delivery of relief goods.

"Are we going to have tens of thousands of people staying
in the rubble and in the snow until it's too late? Maybe. It's
a logistical nightmare," Egeland said.

Some U.N. agencies have already run out of cash, hindering
operations. As a result, many wounded were forced to submit to
emergency amputations due to delayed evacuations, while
hundreds of thousands more faced hunger and exposure, Egeland

"We needed the money yesterday," he said.

The quake killed at least 54,400 people, wounded about
74,000 and left up to 3 million people homeless, according to
official estimates.

Much of the new money was earmarked for reconstruction
efforts like homebuilding, such as a $251 million pledge from
the Islamic Development Bank. An earlier pledge for $333
million from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait was
also largely earmarked for reconstruction.

But Egeland said those pledges, however welcome, failed to
meet the immediate needs of those stranded.

"It is, in my view, not right to sit with reconstruction
money for one year from now if we're not sure whether those
people will be alive one year from now," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the U.N. nearly doubled its goal of
$550 million in urgent relief aid needed for Pakistan. With the
new pledges, the U.N has received about $111 million of that.


The funding shortfall comes after aid agency Oxfam
criticized western governments for giving too little, too late.

"The logistical nightmare in Pakistan is bad enough without
having to worry about funding shortfalls as well," Oxfam's
Policy Director Phil Bloomer said in a statement.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who chaired the
ministerial conference, said the need for funding was critical
as the Himalayan winter approached.

"The scale of this tragedy almost defies our darkest
imagination," Annan told representatives of about 60 countries
gathered in Geneva. "It is a winter without pity."

Salman Shah, financial adviser to Pakistan's prime
minister, urged international organizations to accelerate their
efforts, in part to prevent extremist organizations from
building support among the needy and neglected.

He said they must hurry "so that organizations that may
have their own agendas are not going to exploit the situation."

Separately, the Geneva-based International Federation of
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies doubled its appeal target
to $117 million.