Pakistan unsure flood aid conference to translate into funds

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani officials were increasingly concerned Thursday whether next week’s U.N.-backed conference will succeed in raising the billions of dollars needed to help survivors and launch reconstruction efforts following last summer’s devastating floods.

Authorities say they need $16.3 billion, half of which will be financed from the budget. The government seeks the other half — about $8 billion — in aid donations from the international community.

The United Nations and Pakistan are jointly hosting the conference on Monday in Geneva, which had earlier been billed as a donors conference. However, as expectations of large influxes foundered, the government now says the day-long event will be used to raise the alarm about the situation in the aftermath of the deadly deluge.

Those wanting to announce pledges at the event would be welcome, said Khalil Hashmi, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the U.N. He spoke at a news conference Thursday in Geneva alongside Knut Ostby, United Nations Development Program’s representative in Pakistan.

The Geneva event aims to foster “solidarity” and support for the victims of the floods that killed 1,739 people and affected 33 million Pakistanis, Hashmi added.

“This is a pivotal moment for the global communities to stand with the people of Pakistan,” said Ostby.

He added hopes that the conference will mobilize the international community to support a resilient recovery from the devastating floods, which also displaced 8 million people, damaged 2 million houses and washed away 13,000 kilometers of roads. At one point, a third of the country was submerged.

Earlier Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said Pakistan suffered more than $30 billion in damages in the unprecedented flooding, according to a U.N.-supported assessment document.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric has announced that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will take part in Monday’s conference. He told reporters that Guterres “will call for support to strengthen the resilience of the communities in Pakistan for the future.”

The U.N. has warned that the funding raised so far for Pakistan’s flood victims will run out this month. The world body has so far received only a third of the $816 million in emergency aid it sought last October for food, medicines and other supplies.

Pakistan, which plays a negligible role in global warming and emits less than 1% of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, is still vulnerable to climate-induced devastation, experts say. Even before the heavy monsoon rains struck in mid-June, cash-strapped Pakistan was facing a serious financial crisis.

The Islamic nation also struggles with militant violence. On Thursday, security forces raided a militant hideout in a former Pakistani Taliban stronghold near the border with Afghanistan, triggering a shootout that killed 11 militants, the military said.

The raid in South Waziristan, a district in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, also killed a local militant commander, Hafiz Ullah, the military said.

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Associated Press writer Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

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