Australia triples flood aid to Pakistan

Australia on Tuesday pledged an extra 24 million dollars (21.6 million US) in aid to help Pakistan cope with devastating floods, after urgent pleas from Islamabad and the United Nations.

The additional funding for humanitarian aid efforts brings Australia’s commitment to 35 million dollars, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, adding that Canberra would consider longer-term relief if necessary.

“Australians remain deeply concerned as the flood disaster in Pakistan continues to worsen,” the prime minister said in a statement.

“Despite the ongoing international assistance effort, people affected by the floods are facing new difficulties.”

Pakistan is enduring its worst floods in 80 years, with millions of people affected by the deluge, prompting UN chief Ban Ki-moon to urge the world to step up international aid.

“There are grave risks that the flooding will worsen Pakistan’s social circumstances but also its long-term economic circumstances will be potentially devastated,” Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told ABC Radio.

The Australian aid will be channelled through international agencies such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies while the defence force is also airlifting relief supplies to the worst affected regions.

Australian aid groups have also called for public contributions to the appeals, which Smith said may have been overshadowed by attention on national elections taking place on Saturday.

“We think because of the election there hasn’t been the same public focus on Pakistan and so the NGOs (non-governmental organisations) are very keen to get the public support as well,” Smith said.