4 million homeless in Pakistan

The number of people rendered homeless by the devastating floods in Pakistan has risen to more than 4 million, making the critical task of securing greater amounts of aid more urgent, the United Nations said.

The UN had earlier said 2 million people had lost their homes in the worst floods in Pakistan’s history, which began nearly three weeks ago.

Aid agencies have been pushing for more funding as they try to tackle major problems such as food supplies, lack of shelter and outbreaks of diseases.

The economic costs of the floods are expected to run into the billions of dollars, stepping up pressure on Pakistan’s government just after it had made progress in stabilising the country through security offensives against Taliban insurgents.

Aid funding has improved, with nearly half the $459 million needed to fund initial relief efforts secured after days of lobbying donors.

“The donors are improving their contribution. They are giving more and more,” UN spokesman Maurizio Giuliano said.

“The response of donors to this crisis is getting better and better but it is still inadequate.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith says the Government is continuing to monitor the effects of the floods and will consider giving further aid to Pakistan if the situation deteriorates.

Child trafficking

But the situation on the ground remains grim.

Mr Giuliano says child trafficking is a big business in Pakistan.

And he says since the floods have made millions homeless, children are at an even greater risk of being forced into the trade.

“You may have families who take drastic measures because they need to survive,” he said.

“So even though we don’t have any suggestion that it is happening already, this can be a concern.”

Only a small minority of the 6 million Pakistanis desperate for food and clean water have received help after floods that have killed up to 1,600 people.

Flood victims are turning on each other as aid is handed out.

While the military has raised its profile by leading rescue and relief efforts, the government has faced a hail of criticism over its perceived failure to ease the crisis.

Hundreds of villages are isolated, highways and bridges have been cut in half by floods and hundreds of thousands of cattle – the livelihoods of many villagers – have drowned.

Many hospitals and medical camps are overwhelmed and fears are rising for possible epidemics of diseases and viruses such as malaria.

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