U.N. Chief: Pakistan Floods the Worst I’ve Seen

Courtesy CBS

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Beseeches World to Donate More after Touring Country where 20 Million Affected

    • United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gives a press conference at Chaklala Airbase in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on Aug. 15, 2010.United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gives a press conference at Chaklala Airbase in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on Aug. 15, 2010.  (GETTY IMAGES)
    • Members of Pakistani flood affected family flee their homes due to flooding in Muzaffargarh in central Pakistan Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010.Members of Pakistani flood affected family flee their homes due to flooding in Muzaffargarh in central Pakistan Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010.  (AP Photo)
    • Stranded Pakistanis wade through water for safe areas in Muzaffargarh near Multan, Pakistan, Aug. 13, 2010. Fever, stomach problems and skin diseases are spreading among Pakistani flood victims.Stranded Pakistanis wade through water for safe areas in Muzaffargarh near Multan, Pakistan, Aug. 13, 2010. Fever, stomach problems and skin diseases are spreading among Pakistani flood victims.  (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
    • A Pakistani flood affected child suffering from diarrhea lies in a make-shift hospital set up at a camp in Nowshera, Pakistan, Aug. 13, 2010. Fever, stomach problems and skin diseases are spreading among Pakistani flood victims.A Pakistani flood affected child suffering from diarrhea lies in a make-shift hospital set up at a camp in Nowshera, Pakistan, Aug. 13, 2010. Fever, stomach problems and skin diseases are spreading among Pakistani flood victims.  (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
    • Stranded people stand on a small strip of road waving to a helicopter before being evacuated by the Pakistan Army as flood waters continue to cause suffering two weeks after flooding began, Aug. 12, 2010 in Mirpur Buriro, Pakistan.Stranded people stand on a small strip of road waving to a helicopter before being evacuated by the Pakistan Army as flood waters continue to cause suffering two weeks after flooding began, Aug. 12, 2010 in Mirpur Buriro, Pakistan.  (GETTY IMAGES)

     

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(CBS/AP) 

Updated at 2:47 p.m. Eastern.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday the flooding in Pakistan was the worst disaster he had ever seen, and urged foreign donors to speed up assistance to some 20 million people affected.

Ban spoke after flying over some of the worst-hit areas.

“This has been a heart-wrenching day for me,” he said alongside President Asif Ali Zardari. “I will never forget the destruction and suffering I have witnessed today. In the past I have witnessed many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this.”

The floods began more than two weeks ago and have hit about one-quarter of the country. Huge swaths of land remain under water, and hundreds more homes were flooded over the weekend.

While the death toll of 1,500 is small compared to other disasters, the extent of the flooding and number of people whose lives have been disrupted is staggering.

CBS News correspondent Richard Roth reports that where there’s shelter, there’s poor sanitation, and concern now that cholera will spread.

A case of the deadly waterborne disease was confirmed Saturday in Pakistan’s flood-ravaged northwest, and aid workers said there would almost certainly be more. The discovery came as new flood surges hit the south.

Cholera was confirmed in Mingora, the main town in the northwest’s Swat Valley, U.N. spokesman Maurizio Giuliano said. Other cases were suspected, and aid workers are now responding to all people exhibiting acute watery diarrhea with the assumption that it’s cholera, Giuliano said.

Cholera can lead to severe dehydration and death without prompt treatment, and containing cholera outbreaks is considered a high priority following floods.

“You know, access to clean drinking water is not limited. There is no clean drinking water,” Pascal Cuttat, of the International Red Cross, said.

The U.N. has appealed for an initial $460 million to provide relief, but only 20 percent has been given.

Related Coverage:

Cholera Hits Pakistan Flood Victims
Floods Continue to Torment Pakistan
Pakistan’s Smallest Flood Victims
Pakistan Floods Fail to Spark Strong Global Aid
Pakistan Floods May Give Taliban Time to Regroup
China, Pakistan Desperate for Flood Aid
Pakistani Flood Victims Fast, Ramadan or Not

Once the floods recede, billions more will be needed for reconstruction and getting people back to work.

The International Monetary Fund has warned the floods will likely bring dire economic consequences in a country already reliant on foreign aid to keep its economy afloat and one key to the U.S.-led war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

“Waves of flood must be met with waves of support from the world,” said Ban. “I’m here to urge the world to step up assistance,” he said.

The U.S. has pledged more than $70 million in aid so far and provided a fleet of military helicopters to help deliver it, reports Roth. It’s a humanitarian mission with a strategic interest, as Washington hopes the assistance will help improve its image in the country – however marginally – as it seeks its support in the battle against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

“There is an opportunity to resurrect goodwill and feeling toward the American public and toward the American government,” CBS News security consultant Juan Zarate said.

President Zardari has been criticized for his response to the disaster, especially for going ahead with a state visit to Europe just as the crisis was unfolding. Zardari has visited victims twice since returning, but images of him at a family owned chateau while in France are likely to hurt him for months to come.

In his first comments to the media since returning, he defended the government.

“The government has responded very responsibly,” he said, saying the army, the police and officials were all working to relieve the suffering. “I would appeal to the press to understand the magnitude of the disaster.”

The monsoon rains that triggered the disaster are forecast to fall for several weeks yet, meaning the worst may not yet be over.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “U.N. Chief: Pakistan Floods the Worst I’ve Seen

  1. Maryanne Khan

    In his first comments to the media since returning, he (Zardari) defended the government.

    “The government has responded very responsibly,” he said, saying the army, the police and officials were all working to relieve the suffering. “I would appeal to the press to understand the magnitude of the disaster.”

    Good lord! The Army, (post East India Co law and order management tradition), the police (local alliances)

    and OFFICIALS.

    Man! You’re the chief executive, fella.

    Don’t dare say that and then lay it at the feet of whatever bias the press may have. what on earth are they supposed to say?

    Monsieur Zardari, je te demande ” Comment sont allez les visites aux chalets de France? Soit-il le foie gras a votre plaisir, monsieur?’ Le champagne satisfactoire?

    Translation: Mr. Zardari, I ask you “How was the visits to the castles of France? Was the goose liver pate to your taste, Sir? The champagne?”

  2. Maryanne Khan

    God, I cry for you, my adopted family cos I know you.

  3. PMA

    Maryanne Khan (August 16, 2010 at 6:32 pm):

    “Man! You’re the chief executive, fella.”

    I agree as Head of the State President Zardari should have cancelled his foreign trip and stayed home in touch with the government, but he is not the Chief Executive. Technically the Chief Executive and Head of the Government is Prime Minister Gilani. But Pakistani Government traditionally has very little civilian emergency management infrastructure in place. It has always been the Military that answers the call to any national disaster. The boys are doing their job as best as they can.

  4. Pingback: “UN Chief: Pakistan Floods the Worst I’ve Seen” and related posts | Today Hot News

  5. Maryanne Khan

    Yes, I suppose I am a little confused by the status of the President in Pakistan, having studied American politics where the P is chief executive. I stand corrected, PMA.

    Gilani was there and he has spoken out for his people.

    By the way, Australia has upped its contribution to AUS$35 million.

    I’m happy for that. I hope you all know that we in Australia are thinking of you and that even in the midst of Federal elections, we still dedicate much attention to your plight. Oh there you go, there’s just now an announcement by the UN of a massive contribution to future development/recovery.