International agency Oxfam today called on rich countries and institutions, meeting for the third time in as many months to discuss flood-ravaged Pakistan, to end the talking and start giving the $1.1 billion that remains unfunded in the UN’s current Pakistan Floods Emergency Response Plan needed to help save lives and start to rebuild the country.
Pakistan will host the Pakistan Development Forum from November 14-15, which brings together donor countries and international financial institutions to discuss rehabilitating communities hit by floods and support the reconstruction effort.
“This is the third major donor meeting since the floods and it is action that is needed, not endless talking. Funding for humanitarian work is in danger of drying up, yet the needs are still enormous, especially as winter approaches and nearly seven million people are still without shelter,” said Fatima Naqvi, Oxfam’s acting country director in Pakistan.
“It is time for donors to show leadership. They must commit long-term funds and ensure money starts to reach those who need it now, rather than making empty promises. Pakistan needs greater support to get back on its feet and rebuild from this devastating crisis,” said Naqvi.
More than 20 million people across Pakistan were affected by the floods. Nearly two-million homes were damaged or destroyed, roads and bridges were swept away, and schools and hospitals damaged. Estimated losses to public and private property amount to more than $10 billion according to the World Bank and Asia Development Bank Damage Needs Assessment Report presented to the Government of Pakistan on November 5, 2010.
The impact on the country’s already fragile economy has been devastating. Agriculture, which accounts for 21 percent of the economy and 45 percent of employment, was particularly hard hit. The floods wiped out more than two-million hectares of crops and killed millions of livestock and poultry.
While the response from some donors and the public has been generous (the US government leads international donors with more than $326 million committed), the UN’s Pakistan flood appeal for just under $2 billion is still only 43 percent funded. Many relief and emergency programs are in danger of being closed due to funding shortages.*
Oxfam says reconstruction can present a new opportunity to tackle Pakistan’s chronic poverty and inequality.
“The needs of the poorest and most vulnerable must be placed at the heart of the relief and reconstruction effort,” said Naqvi. “It’s crucial that communities are consulted in assessing and prioritizing reconstruction needs. It is also a chance for the authorities to take greater steps toward a more equitable distribution of land and prevent flood-affected families from falling into debt bondage. Land ownership is an important safeguard against poverty. But in southern Sindh, the area worst-hit by the floods, an estimated 60 percent of people are landless and many now have huge debts.”
Oxfam and its partners have supported initiatives in Sindh to redistribute state-owned land to poor landless women peasants. The program will be fully completed, closely monitored, and rolled out to other provinces.
* The World Health Organization and Unicef have both warned they may have to close some emergency programs and cut staff because of insufficient funding.