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IMF to review aid as Pakistan braces for more floods

Video by Olivia Salazar-Winspear

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-08-23

The International Monetary Fund has said it will review Pakistan's budget as thousands of people scramble for safety in the country's south, where rising flood waters threaten to open a new front in Pakistan's worst-ever natural disaster.

REUTERS - Residents of a southern Pakistani town fled rising flood waters on Saturday in a new frontline of a disaster that has raised questions about the stability of the U.S.-backed government.

Authorities struggled to shore up an embankment holding back a growing tide on the edge of Shahdadkot, in Sindh province, which aid groups say is still highly vulnerable to floods that have raged through Pakistan for three weeks.

A heavy stream of trucks, tractors and donkey carts transported people away, repeating scenes played out throughout the catastrophe that has made more than four million homeless.

“People are saying it’s dangerous to stay,” said Riaz Hussain, as he finished packing his family and possessions, including two water buffalo, onto a trailer behind a tractor.

“I’ll find some corner to live with my family.”

The flood is spreading through the rice-growing belt in the north of Sindh district by district, breaking through or flowing over embankments. People have also cut through dikes and roads hoping to divert the water away from their homes.

Isolated rain was expected in parts of central Punjab, southern Sindh and northwestern Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa provinces in the next 24 hours, officials said.

The International Monetary Fund said it would review Pakistan’s budget and economic prospects in light of the disaster in talks with government officials on Monday. The talks will focus on a $10 billion IMF programme agreed in 2008.

Flood damage to agriculture is widespread, raising the possibility of long-term damage to a pillar of the economy.

“The scale of the tragedy means that the country’s budget and macroeconomic prospects, where are being supported by an IMF financed programme, will need to be reviewed,” said Masood Ahmed, IMF director for the Middle East and Central Asia.

The government has been accused of moving too slowly and Islamist charities, some with suspected links to militant groups, have moved rapidly to provide relief to Pakistanis, already frustrated with their leaders’ track record on the economy, security, poverty and power cuts.

Anger is spreading as Pakistanis fight each other for relief supplies as they are distributed. If the crisis deepens the already unpopular government could face food riots, or possibly social unrest, analysts say.

French aid reaches Pakistan

The United States, eager to ensure stability in a frontline state in the fight against militancy, had led a chorus of aid pledges and provided helicopters for rescue operations.

The EU will also urge countries next month to support trade breaks for Pakistan as worries grow about the impact of the floods on the stability of a country that has failed to break Taliban insurgents with a series of offensives.

Waters began raging through Pakistan about three weeks ago, swallowing villages, destroying roads and bridges and leaving millions destitute. One third of the country has been affected.

Disease fears

In the northwest city of Nowshera, schoolboy Hassam Khan lost what was dear to him - two pet dogs, his school books and his body-building equipment.

“The other two (dogs) were swept away. We never found the body of one. God knows where it was swept away. The other’s body was found in our neighbour’s house,” he said.

Half a million people are living in about 5,000 schools where poor hygiene and sanitation, along with cramped quarters and the stifling heat, provide fertile ground for potentially fatal diseases such as cholera.

The United Nations has warned that up to 3.5 million children could be in danger of contracting deadly diseases carried through contaminated water and insects.

Flood victim Zainab Bibi complained that her family urgently need food and water. “We have received nothing. We fled with nothing. Now our children are suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea,” she said.

On the edge of Shahdadkot, authorities were using heavy equipment to reinforce an embankment holding the water back as residents escaped. An old man cradled an elderly woman, who appeared to be sick, in the back of an auto-rickshaw.

 

Date created : 2010-08-22

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