UN concerned at slowing of funds for Pakistani flood victims Eds: Changes headline, releads, adds quotes

UN concerned at slowing of funds for Pakistani flood victims Eds: Changes headline, releads, adds quotes

The United Nations said Thursday that international funding for Pakistan's flood victims was ebbing, jeopardizing emergency relief efforts to help more than 18 million people, DPA reported.

"The funding is slowing, and we are trying to keep the international interest alive by saying that the crisis is far from over," said Stacey Winston of the UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs.

The world body appealed for 460 million dollars, but five weeks after the floods began, it has received 63 per cent of that amount. Donors have pledged another 30 million dollars.

The funding improved significantly in the week after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Pakistan August 15, but the UN said it has been almost stalled since the beginning of last week.

"It is really crucial that we get these funds because we are still at the height of the emergency," Winston said. "We are worried because we need more resources."

The worst floods in the country's history have submerged more than one-fifth of the country and killed more than 1,700 people.

The UN and its partners have so far delivered one month of food rations to almost 3 million people and high-energy biscuits to 750,000 children.

They have provided medical care to 3.9 million, and supplies to cover the potential health needs of 3.6 million people have reached health facilities.

International assistance is playing a key role in saving millions of displaced people as Pakistani leaders have said they are unable to cope with the disaster without external support.

With hundred of thousands of uprooted people still looking for aid, the UN has expressed fears that flood-affected people in south-western province of Baluchistan could move toward Iran, sparking illegal cross-border movements.

Baluchistan borders Iran's restive Baluchistan-Sistan province, where the anti-Iran Jundollah militant organization has been active.

More than 2 million people have been affected by the floods in the impoverished province, and at least 1 million are living in relief camps, where the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees described their situation as "disgusting."

"Our concern is that if the needs of these people are not fulfilled, they might start moving toward the Iranian border," said office representative Mengesha Kebede, who just returned from Baluchistan.

Iran, wary of any mass movement toward its sensitive border, has already asked the UN to keep it updated about such movements.

Baluchistan has largely been neglected by aid organizations and private charities, leaving the Pakistan Army to carry out the bulk of flood relief there. The army, however, is not popular in the province, where nationalists have been fighting a low-intensity separatist war.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Wednesday that the net economic losses inflicted by the floods and rains might rise to 43 billion dollars.

The floodwaters have begun to fall, but it would take weeks before displaced people are able to move from their temporary shelters.

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