Briefing on Pakistan Flood Relief
Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
MR. TONER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. I’m very happy to have with us today for an update on Pakistan flood relief efforts Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dan Feldman, as well as Acting Director of the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Mark Ward, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement William McGlynn.
We’re going to begin with Special Representative Feldman, who’s going to give us an update on his recent trip to Pakistan and then hand it over to Deputy Assistant Secretary McGlynn.
Go ahead, Dan.
MR. FELDMAN: Thanks, Mark. Thanks very much. Good to see many of you again. I just want to give a very quick readout of the trip I took last week. I was part of Senator Kerry’s CODEL showing the very close working relationship between the executive and legislative branches; there were four or five of us traveling as part of that.
We – during our time in Pakistan, we visited the Ghazi Air Base, the staging area for the U.S. helicopters, and talked to troops there. It really demonstrated to us the very, very close and joint coordination between the U.S. and Pakistani military. We had some briefings by both U.S. and Pakistani military leadership, talked to troops. And this is the area that we’ve got a number of both military and civilian helicopters now staging from, rescuing people, providing aid and supplies.
Bill will talk about the INL contribution of helicopters to that effort. And as you know from past briefings, we are working up to the full complement of 19 U.S. military helicopters coming off the Peleliu. Through last night, I think the total sum of U.S. helicopters has evacuated close to 8,000 people and delivered more than 1.6 million pounds of relief supplies.
Along with Senator Kerry, we then flew to Multan in Punjab, south of FATA and KPK, where we met President Zardari on the ground in Multan. We then took several helicopters up and spent several hours looking at and surveying the flood damage from the air, including landing at a government-run IDP camp. As you likely know from news accounts, Punjab is a very densely populated area of Pakistan. It produces much of Pakistan’s agricultural output and food, and the extent of the damage just visually was every bit as epic and devastating as you would imagine – just miles and miles and miles as far as you could see for the whole several hours as we were flying around: agricultural fields under water, roads and bridges under water, roads continuously disrupted by water, so impossible to move people or food or supplies out; power plants literally under water, the swollen banks of the river – both rivers actually – just going, stretching as far as you could see, reinforcing for us, obviously, not only the degree of immediate relief that will be needed as the UN and other international donors have focused on, but longer term the recovery and reconstruction efforts which will take many, many months if not years. And the sheer impact still needs to be assessed but will certainly be staggering.
To kind of highlight some of the key issues that the U.S. is doing per the Secretary’s announcements at the UNGA special session last week, we’ve been very proud that the U.S. response has been both first and most among contributors, showing the generosity both of the American people and the USG.
As the Secretary announced, we’re now providing up to $150 million to support relief efforts, including some of that earmarked towards the UN flood response plan, so we’re at just over the 20 percent threshold of the UN plan for $460 million. This money is going towards local and international NGOs, towards UN agencies, towards operations for NDMA through the Government of Pakistan.
We’re also, as we’ve briefed before, providing millions of dollars of in-kind and technical assistance, including the temporary bridges, expanding preexisting programs in flood-affected areas, the halal meals, and a range of other things. We’re looking at ways that we can redirect already existing funds through Kerry-Lugar-Berman and others to meet the needs of flood victims as soon as possible, so programs for livelihood, for clinics, rebuilding schools, infrastructure that we had already planned, which can be redirected to get to flood victims as quickly as possible.
This is also in addition to the high-impact, high-visibility projects that the Secretary announced while in Pakistan just last month which will continue to come out of Kerry-Lugar-Berman funding.
The Secretary also announced at UNGA the establishment of the Pakistan relief fund. So for everyone, both Americans and members from the international community, to join in the relief, recovery, reconstruction efforts. This was accompanied by another text campaign in addition to the one which the Secretary announced several weeks ago, the text SWAT to 50555 that where $10 goes to the UNHCR, she announced the text FLOOD to 27722 which will donate $10 to this emergency relief – to this Pakistan relief fund.
We’re looking at a series of follow-on meetings from the UNGA special session, multilateral in nature, over the next few months to continue to gauge and assess what the needs will be and how we can best meet those as we shift from relief efforts to reconstruction and recovery.
The size of the endeavor is still – is remarkable: Ambassador Holbrooke and others have said it. This is – we’re talking about an area affected the size of Italy or Florida. The NDMA reported on Sunday that over a million homes have now been destroyed. Deaths are still thankfully relatively low – about the 1,500-1,600 mark. And we will have to continue to see what happens in terms of the forecast for rain. Water level at some barrages remain quite high; a few others are starting to recede a little bit, but there have been some broken dikes which have really aggravated flooding in some areas, including Balochistan.
The World Health Organization is very focused right now on cholera as well as malaria. And the international community – we’ve seen the UNGA event last week as a real galvanizing moment in terms of contributions from other countries. By our count, we’ve seen over $700 million pledged, including our own $150 million commitment, from over 30 countries, and an additional $300 million in as-yet-undefined commitments from a range of other countries. So countries are working both through the UN fund as well as bilaterally, and we’re trying to continue to gauge that and make sure that this all gets channeled and coordinated in as effective a manner as possible. But you’re certainly seeing additional assets, including helicopters from the first tranche of helicopters from Japan – I believe three are on route now with potentially another three coming quite soon; the Afghan helicopters that we talked about, potentially from other countries, and a continued civilian assistance in a range of ways as well.
So we will continue to be closely monitoring this working with the international community to coordinate this. But why don’t I turn this over to Bill to talk about the particular INL role on the helicopter, and then to Mark Ward to talk about where we are in relief efforts altogether.
MR. MCGLYNN: Thanks, Dan. Thank you very much. I think on behalf of all of us, let me express our deepest sympathies for those affected by the tragic flooding in Pakistan. Many of you know that the Department of State and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has a long and close cooperation with the Government of Pakistan for border security and for counternarcotics and development in the North-West region. As part of that, the United States has provided a number of helicopters, and the Government of Pakistan has provided pilot and other technical support in order to conduct these programs.
Since the flooding, those helicopters and aircraft have been used for relief efforts. Let me get right to what the specifics of that is. Seven helicopters operating out of Peshawar and Multan have rescued and transported approximately 1,400 individuals and Government of Pakistan officials and delivered nearly 200,000 pounds of equipment and supply cargo. This includes doctors with medical supplies, which, as Dan has mentioned, is an important priority. Two of INL’s Cessna Caravan airplanes with Government of Pakistan crews from the Ministry of Interior are being utilized for flood relief, shuttling maintenance crews between operating locations, and flying reconnaissance missions to survey flood-ridden areas of the country.
Those of you who follow Pakistan and U.S.-Pakistan relations are very aware of our Strategic Dialogue led by Secretary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi. An important part of that has been a group regarding law enforcement, which met in Islamabad in July. It’s been a very productive effort, and I particularly want to point to the effort between the Government of Pakistan and the United States to reach agreement on some technical issues relating to visas which helped make the technical support needed for this operation possible.
I would also – there’s some other efforts aside from our aviation effort. The United States and my bureau has made available 12 steel suspension bridges in Pakistan to replace those washed out by the flooding in Kyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. One of the bridges has already been installed in Chakdara, Dir. Six bridges will be deployed to the Kyber Pakhtunkhwa districts of Dir and Swat, and one has been sent to South Waziristan.
MR. WARD: Hello again. Let me give you some developments since the last time we spoke. The weather – expecting some isolated thunderstorms in the north over the next couple of days. As Dan mentioned, we’re concerned about flooding in Sindh. The government has been evacuating some people from low-lying areas of the lower Indus near Hyderabad.
Some good news up north. We’ve got the first signs of people going home. And this allows us, then, to get in with some of the organizations we’re working with to provide some cash-for-work opportunities, to start clearing away some of the debris, obviously some of the mud, and provide some credit so that people can start to put their lives back together.
On food, we’re now delivering food – all of the international community together – to getting close to 2 million people. We’re adding 140,000 beneficiaries a day in the food distribution. So getting – again, I think this is showing signs that the access is getting a little bit easier, at least up in the north, if we’re able to get the food in.
On health, we’ve been able to get around and consult with and treat 1.5 million patients all over the country, and we’ve been with – helping WHO, we’ve been distributing essential medical kits to over 2 million people.
As Dan also mentioned and I’ve mentioned before, we’re very concerned about cholera and other water-borne diseases. USAID has worked with WHO to set up 55 acute treatment centers all over the country so that if somebody cannot be treated in a local community district facility or a local hospital, we can get them to one of these treatment centers so that we can keep any concerns about cholera in check.
Dan also mentioned malaria is getting to be a concern and – just because of the time of year and so much water. So we’re providing 700,000 mosquito nets for families, particularly as they start to go home.
Clean water is still a huge issue, maybe the most important issue in the relief effort. We’ve got seven more of these giant water treatment machines arriving this week. That’ll get us up to 13. And there, the ones we’ve already provided are churning out over 4 million liters of safe drinking water this month since this began.
We’ve got relief flights coming in this week. They’ll be delivering, as I said, more of these giant water filtration units, water containers to go with them, lots – tens of thousands of blankets because we still have many, many people evacuated, not able to go home yet. And we’re also bringing in 40 more inflatable boats, because we’ve still got issues with certain communities being cut off. We’ve got to get the people out of there. We can also start to use these boats in the areas where we have a little bit more access now to get in there and do better assessments than we’ve been able to do before about what the needs are as we start getting into the recovery phase.
I think that’s enough.
MR. TONER: Great. We have time for some questions, if you’d like. Go ahead.
QUESTION: You had some news reports happening in Pakistani newspapers when – about the discrimination in the aid distribution, which is more concentrated on Punjab and Sindh province and not towards the Kyber Pakhtunkhwa. Do you have any comments on that?
And secondly, is there any special meeting of (inaudible) of those countries that you have on the Pakistani flooding issues?
MR. FELDMAN: I haven’t seen any special reports of kind of discriminatory behavior. I think there’s so much that has to be done in so many different provinces and districts that we’re just trying to make sure that aid gets out there as effectively as possible and in as coordinated a way as possible. And obviously, we’ve seen the areas most impacted kind of change as the water continues to flow south and ultimately empties into the sea, that that may also have – provide some kind of inland flooding. And then we’ll have to see what the – where the second tranche or third tranche comes from.
But I think that in our work and certainly the NDMA’s work and coordinating with a range of international organizations, UN agencies, and Pakistan domestic organizations, they’ve tried to target it as best as possible to those in most critical and dire need. And so it’s been in each of those provinces.
In terms of the multilateral meetings, there are a range that are already scheduled for this fall. Preexisting this, there was a Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting planned for August 14th and 15th, which will obviously address the flood issues as one of the critical issues now in addition to --
MR. FELDMAN: October. October 14th and 15th. This will be held in Brussels and it’s something that Special Envoy Ripert has been helping to spearhead. But the flooding will be a central component of that now and as well as some of the other needs.
The next meeting of the special representatives is also planned for October, and I’m sure that Pakistan will be a key part of that schedule and agenda.
In following up from the special session last week, there’s been talk about having another meeting on the margins of the upcoming UNGA in September, which we’ll see, and then there’s a range of other potential initiatives. So there will be a variety of forums of multilateral organizations to continue this dialogue and make sure that the international community is as coordinated as possible.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Sir, thank you. As far as U.S. efforts are concerned, it’s very much appreciated by the Pakistan Government, but if you have seen the reports by the Pakistani media and many Pakistanis are telling me if so much money and food supplies and other things are going to Pakistan, it’s not reaching to the people. People are still crying for help and for food and for shelters and all that. So where all these things are going?
MR. FELDMAN: I think that, again, the scope of the problem is so immense that we’re trying to meet it as best as possible. But this is with a Pakistani lead and working through Pakistani organizations, UN organizations, and other international organizations. Certainly, I bore witness to the fact that there was a – the IDP camp that I saw run by the Government of Pakistan is certainly getting to some people. But the needs are so vast that I’m sure that everything is being done to try to meet those as best as possible. Much of our funding is going to international NGOs and to UN agencies, but also trying to help the NDMA operate.
QUESTION: One more quick – just quick follow. In a similar way, what they are saying is that now, Pakistan has applied – or is getting $2 billion from the Asian Development Bank and $10 billion from the IMF. What the Pakistanis are saying, really that in the past, billions of dollars was received by Pakistani Government, but still no accounting and it has not reached, again, to the people of Pakistan. Because what they are saying – U.S. has to focus now more on the Pakistanis – the people, not the government – if they want to have a real, really good image – U.S. – better image in Pakistan.
MR. FELDMAN: We’re not doing this to improve our image; we’re doing it as a response to a humanitarian crisis, and we’re working with the organizations that are best equipped to handle that humanitarian crisis. And that’s – much of our funding is going through these very proven, credible organizations that are getting aid and assistance to the people as quickly as possible. There are ongoing issues. Obviously, these issues are so immense in terms of the economic infrastructure, so the ongoing conversations with IMF and ADB and how that much – how that money will be used towards recovery and reconstruction efforts will still be hammered out over the next coming weeks.
QUESTION: And Pakistan’s finance minister is going to be in town this week, I’m wondering – for discussions with the IMF. I’m wondering if he’s going to have any discussions with the SRAP’s office or anybody else in this building. Is there any talk about debt relief as one possible avenue to help them carry the financial burden? And I was also hoping you could talk a little bit more, if there has been any more progress – I’m thinking about Kerry-Lugar-Berman – as to how some – how much of that money may need to be repurposed. Is there any sense that the overall sum might have to be increased or front-loaded so you can get more of the money to them faster? Where are we on that one?
MR. FELDMAN: As I understand, on the IMF meetings, these were already previously scheduled meetings and they’re going forward. But obviously, the flood issues are going to be central to them at this point. And I believe that there will be meetings with State Department representatives as well as Treasury and others, but would have to confirm that.
On the Kerry-Lugar-Berman process, this is something that our Embassy and others are still assessing at this point. What we’ve tried to do is identify funding that was already going to be used that can just be redirected as quickly as possible. So already, livelihoods programs, clinics, immunization programs, rebuilding schools, that was already on the books, much of it in these areas already which we can just try to facilitate as quickly as possible. But that process is ongoing, and obviously, we also don’t want to detract from the core mission of Kerry-Lugar-Berman, which was looking at these five or six key sectors on infrastructure, agriculture, water, health, education, and making sure that we have the right balance of kind of the high-impact, high-visibility projects with the ongoing, kind of day-to-day programs that we’ve already been funding. So that assessment will continue to go on as we see what evolves on the ground.
QUESTION: So it’s really more a question of sequencing rather than kind of actually adding new projects to the mix?
MR. FELDMAN: We’ll have to see. We have to really see what the needs are. The Kerry-Lugar-Berman money will overwhelmingly be used for recovery and reconstruction as opposed to the immediate relief issues. And so as the scope and nature of the recovery and reconstruction needs are known, we can – we have a better sense of how we can redirect some of that money.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. (Inaudible) VOA Pashto Service. We broadcast the region which is mostly affected by the floods. When we talk to people there, we hear from them that some (inaudible) organizations are involved in distributing flood relief items, and also, it comes at a time that the Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar yesterday told a briefing that the militant organization are taking advantage of the situation and they are regrouping in the area. So I just wonder how you would respond to that and you would like to comment on that?
MR. FELDMAN: I know Mark has addressed questions in the past about the vetting processes for how U.S. aid is distributed and what organizations are used. We are working with – last count that I saw – about 17 international organizations, UN agencies that we’ve worked with for many, many years that have the infrastructure in place to get this assistance out as quickly and efficiently as possible. And we continue to do that and there’s rigorous vetting about where those – which organizations we’ve worked with and what their histories are.
As we’ve discussed in past briefings, there’s always been stories about extremist charities operating. We think that in a situation like this where there’s a lot to be done, there may well be an opportunity for some of those organizations to operate. But there’s – again, the needs are so vast, there’s so much money now flowing in to some of the international organizations, their work is so well known and credible in these communities that I think that far outstrips the relatively narrow amounts that we’ve seen from the – from extremist organizations.
MR. CROWLEY: Any more questions? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Any update on the ability of the Palestinian Government to continue in its fight in the war on terror given its distractions with this flooding?
MR. FELDMAN: The Pakistani? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I mean – I’m sorry.
MR. FELDMAN: We’re all focused on what the humanitarian needs are at this point, and obviously, the military in many of these areas – particularly since there were also areas that were already subject to the kind of security needs – are being currently focused on the relief efforts. We’ll have to, again, continue to assess. This is not – this hasn’t yet even peaked in many ways, and so, we’ll have to see what happens with the Pakistani military’s own plans and how that continues to shape the continued campaigns.
MR. TONER: Thank you.