US, Australia to help flood victims rebuild their lives

The United States and Australia on Thursday expressed their resolve to utilize every available resource to help the flood affected people of Pakistan return their homes and rebuilding their lives.

In a joint appearance, US Special Envoy Ambassador Holbrook and Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd along with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said their countries would provide every possible assistance to Pakistan to overcome the challenges in the wake of devastating floods.

Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan had set up an oversight commission after a long consultative process of provincial governments to ensure transparency in the funds collected for flood affected people.

He also spoke of the series of upcoming events to be specially convened to raise funds to meet the heavy cost of rehabilitation of the 20 million displaced.

He said a special session will be held in New York to be chaired by the UN Secretary General Ban KiMoon and co-chaired by him to assess the flood situation. A presentation by chairman NDMA would elaborate the devastation caused by floods in the country.

He said a meeting of 27 foreign ministers in Brussels would also discuss how to help Pakistan and get access for Pakistani textile products to the EU markets. He said a meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan would be held on Oct 14, while an international donors’ conference would be convened in Islamabad in November.

Qureshi also appreciated the international assistance provided for the flood affected, the efforts for rescue and relief by the army, NGOs and the people of Pakistan.

Australian FM Kevin Rudd said Australia was the fifth largest donor to the flood victims in Pakistan and mentioned the medical facilities provided for treatment of Cholera and Malaria.

He said Australian military and civilian personnel were present in Pakistan to help the affected people.

He said the higher risk of epidemic required special attention by the international community to help Pakistan control the situation.

Rudd said that his country has already provided aid worth 25 million dollars and said Australian has announced an additional 40 million dollars for the flood victims.

He said Australian NGOs including Oxfam Australia and Save the Children were making great contributions in this regard and added that the ongoing challenge needed greater energies to tackle.

Ambassador Holbrooke and Kevin Rudd both parried questions about the ongoing violence in the Indian held Kashmir, since at the time they were focussing on relief activities for the flood victims.

Rudd said the government of Australia condemns all acts of violence.

However foreign minister Qureshi said Pakistan has strongly condemned the ongoing killings of innocent people in the Indian held Kashmir. He said Pakistan has conveyed to the Indian government that they have to listen to the voices of Kashmiris as these cannot be suppressed through force.

He said Pakistan would continue its moral, political and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir and only a peaceful solution through dialogue could resolve the issue.

Holbrooke said the US has donated US 300 million for the flood affected people, but pointed that it was not the end of contribution. He said the US was also a major contributor to donations at the UN, UNESCO, WFP and other international organisations.

He said the US has provided helicopters and other equipment, that was in addition to earlier assistance. He said some of the Kerry Lugar funds were immediately moved for the relief measures in the flood affected people.

Holbrooke said many countries were providing assistance to Pakistan in different modes and mentioned India that was providing aid through international agencies, while China was doing so directly.

He said the international community at first did not assess the magnitude of flood disaster, but Foreign Minister Qureshi mobilized them to help Pakistan. He said “we are here to learn how more we can help your country.”

He mentioned his visits to various flood affected areas and said recovery phase has begun in some areas.

He said the US was keeping its tradition to help the people facing the grave challenge.

“I have never ever seen a disaster like this,” Holbrooke said.