EU boosts flood aid to Pakistan

The European Union nearly doubled its aid to flood-stricken Pakistan to €70- million on Wednesday and announced a trip by its top aid official after calls for Brussels to do more to help.

European humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva announced that she would travel to the affected areas of Pakistan on Monday to meet with authorities, relief experts and victims of the floods.

“We are facing a humanitarian disaster in Pakistan of massive proportions,” Georgieva told a news conference, adding that the need for international assistance was “massive.”

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said it would provide an extra €30-million in emergency relief assistance to Pakistan after already giving €40 million in aid.

International aid group Oxfam, which had complained that Brussels was “not doing enough,” welcomed the new aid and said it hoped it would serve as a “rallying call for those EU countries that have failed to adequately respond to this disaster of an unprecedented scale.”

“Should do more”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Sunday also saying that the EU executive should “do more”.

Barroso responded in his own letter to Sarkozy that his services were “the first to react” to the disaster in Pakistan.

Georgieva told reporters: “From the very first day, we knew that[the floods] is going to be a tremendous disaster, we have mobilised to the fullest to deploy and help.”

The European aid official expressed frustration about the lack of recognition of the EU assistance and said the 27-nation bloc needed to raise its visibility.

“It breaks my heart that I open newspapers and nowhere [do] I see a recognition that we are the biggest donor in this humanitarian disaster,” she said.

Georgieva said she would present in September proposals on how to improve the EU’s crisis response, amid calls for Europe to form a rapid reaction scheme for disasters.

The United Nations last week launched an immediate appeal for $460-million, and said on Wednesday that funding had reached 54,5% of this target, though that included pledges that were yet to turn into cash.

Foreign aid began flowing to the 20 million flood victims on Wednesday, but many remained without food or shelter as Islamabad responded slowly to their needs.

Weather forecasts signalled some respite was due with monsoon systems weakening after three weeks of torrential rains brought devastating floods that left at least 1 400 people dead in Pakistan’s worst natural disaster.–Sapa/AFP

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