Briefing on Flood Relief Efforts in Pakistan
Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
MR. FELDMAN: Thanks very much, P.J. Thanks very much for having me here. I just wanted to give a quick update about the current status of the floods and as well as the USG response to it, and then highlight three particular areas: One is the status of the international contributions; the second is the private sector contributions, particularly from the USG; and the third is the strategic communications initiatives that have been launched, and particularly those launched in the last week or so.
Currently, the flood crest from the Indus River is finally entering the Indian Ocean. The good news at this point is that in most places, waters are no longer rising but are finally receding, including in Punjab. There are still enormous concerns, though, particularly on the health front about stagnant water, on shelter issues, and the situation is still deteriorating in some parts of the country, particularly in Sindh, where 6 million people have been displaced and 4.5 million need humanitarian assistance.
In terms of the USG response, we’ve kept you updated on the heavy airlift capability that we’ve undertaken. U.S. military and civilian aircraft continue to support flood relief operations. They’ve been flying sorties over the last few days. And to date, these aircraft – USG aircraft, both civilian and military, have now evacuated close to 9,000 people – it’s over 8,800 – and delivered more than 2.5 million pounds of relief supplies.
We estimate that the civilian and military in-kind assistance – the operations transporting halal meals, the temporary bridges – is now at approximately $15 million. We haven’t yet added that into our fact sheets. That’s in addition to the $150 million in relief assistance that the Secretary announced at the UNGA special session and in addition to the $50 million in early recovery assistance from Kerry-Lugar-Berman funds that Dr. Shah announced in Pakistan last week.
To assist in the continuing needs on heavy lift, there was also an announcement over the weekend that we would come close to doubling the amount of lift capacity of USG helicopters. Right now, we’ve got about 15 helicopters in theater. We are deploying another 18 additional helicopters. We’ll be rotating some out that are currently there. But altogether, we aim to get close to 30 operating USG helicopters into the region in the next 10 days to two weeks or so. So the needs there are still very, very dramatic, and we are continuing to try to meet those as aggressively and robustly as possible.
Let me move on to the three areas I outlined, the first on international assistance. Thus far, over 60 nations have committed more than $700 million, including the $200 million I just referenced, the 150 relief and the 50 early recovery. We now calculate that the UN response plan, the initial plan of $460 million, is about two-thirds funded. It’s about 64 percent right now. But obviously, as the crisis response moves from this relief phase to the early recovery, and then recovery and reconstruction phases, we calculate that the needs are going to be absolutely vast. We are going to continue to look, do our own assessments. There’s also going to be ongoing assessments by the World Bank, ADB, the damage and needs assessments, and as we get more and more of that data, we will continue to work very actively with the international community to ensure that we try to meet those needs as best as possible.
We’ve highlighted some specific contributions in the past on the lift side which is so critical right now. As we’ve noted, Afghanistan has provided four helicopters. Japan now has three helicopters on the ground, three more en route. The UAE has dispatched three helicopters as well as a C-130. Turkey has contributed a C-130. And NATO, very significantly, has started flying missions to deliver food, relief supplies, using NATO-owned trainer cargo aircraft. They delivered – NATO delivered 8 million metric tons of relief supplies donated by Slovakia last week. They’ve augmented this and had several – I think two more flights in the last few days. NATO’s now delivered – and this has been facilitated through German Government contributions and others. And we continue to work closely with them to make sure that these relief supplies get there as quickly as possible.
Notable contributions just over the last week, not only from EU, Australia, Canada, Germany, but from other OIC members. Algeria, Jordan, Uzbekistan, all announced new contributions – China, Russia. So the international community continues to come together and will next meet on the margins of UNGA on September 19th as a follow-up to the session that was held about 10 days ago.
Second of all, on the private sector update, the U.S. business sector, coordinated by the Business Civic Leadership Center and the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council, has provided over $8 million now in relief assistance to Pakistan. Some 50 major companies have contributed either with direct funding or in-kind contribution. We have a list available, but some of the larger contributions include a million dollars from Coca-Cola, a million dollars in direct food items from Sheraton, a million dollars from BP, $600,000 in cash and in-kind from Proctor & Gamble, including water purification tablets, $500,000 from PepsiCo. Many companies have established employee contribution drives, matching donations by their employees. And we continue to welcome and encourage contributions by the corporate sector. This will also be working with the Pakistan Relief Fund, as announced by the Secretary at the UNGA special session about 10 days ago, which that fund will serve as a platform to raise the profile of fundraising efforts, bring together as many disparate parties, making contributions as possible, and continue to amplify contributions. We’re looking at a range of high-profile events, including some celebrity events, which we’ll have more information on in the coming days and weeks.
Lastly, on the strategic communications front, we’ve had a very, very aggressive effort to promote communications, not only here in the U.S. but in Pakistan, use media to better disseminate information. When Dr. Shah was there last week, he helped launch a new nationwide SMS initiative for flood updates. There are 99 million mobile users in Pakistan. Many of the flood victims have only access to mobile, and so he invited people to share the latest information and updates on Pakistan flood recovery by SMS texting the word “FLOODS” in Pakistan to a number, 7111. The Embassy is now using that to send information on relief and recovery efforts to these new subscribers, and it connects them to the latest news information alerts.
This is building on the Secretary’s initiative which she launched last October called Humari Awaz, which is another social media platform which, since she announced it, has – over 350 million messages have been sent in both Urdu and English. He also did – conducted the first ever live one-hour radio broadcast by a USG official with both public and private radio, so very actively using radio, which is such a great means of communications with many – in many parts of the country. We’re continuing to work on strengthening the signal and reach, working actively with the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, which is now providing 24/7 coverage of the floods and looking at a variety of other initiatives to profile needs, documentary filmmakers, other news outlets, and trying to build and grow the information dissemination, which is, lastly, being done through more traditional media. Dr. Shah brought 13 reporters with him to Sukkur last week. We’re continuing to try to get both Pakistani and international journalists out on as many flights as possible so they can observe firsthand what the needs are, report back. And this growing media engagement is certainly helping to provide greater information to the general public, which is, in turn, feeding interest and contributions to flood relief.
So my colleague, Carol Chan, will speak more from USAID OFDA, and we’re happy to take questions.
MS. CHAN: Thank you. Well, as mentioned before, USAID – USG’s pledge has been $200 million. And what we’ve been doing with that money has basically been providing assistance to the flood-affected populations, which include food, nutrition programs, potable water and sanitation facilities, blankets, plastic sheeting to construct temporary shelters, as well as other relief commodities, logistical support, and other information services.
In terms of the weather, as previously mentioned, the water is receding. There doesn’t appear to be storms in the near future. But while the waters are receding in the Punjab, the high crest on the Indus River is beginning to flow into the sea. The situation in Sindh Province continues to deteriorate, although the Pakistani Meteorological Department reported that water flowing to the Koshi Barrage has been reducing and authorities expect flooding to continue in the Sindh.
And some recent developments – international relief organizations are beginning to expand, gradually moving to Sindh and Punjab from bases to – in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and that Sindh Province is now becoming one of the major areas of greatest need. USAID DART is actively targeting local NGOs to conduct the relief programs in Southern Pakistan through the Rapid Response Fund.
In terms of shelter, emergency shelter remains a critical priority for the flood-affected population. To date, USAID OFDA has delivered 5,063 rolls of plastic sheeting, which is sufficient to provide temporary shelter for nearly 152,000 people. USAID has plans for additional shipments of plastic sheeting as the needs become known.
In terms of health, the Pakistani National Disaster Management Authority, also known as NDMA, said a growing concern is the number of large pools of standing water throughout Pakistan. Particularly as peak mosquito season breedings occur over the next two to four weeks, USAID will be continuing to look at disease early warning systems, which actually were implemented after the 2005 earthquake.
MR. CROWLEY: Questions?
MR. FELDMAN: Yes.
QUESTION: Yeah. With the 38 helicopters, what percentage of the total lift capacity does that provide once they’re on board, and what geographic area do they cover? Will they cover most of the flooded areas?
MR. FELDMAN: The overall number is constantly changing as other nations also provide some lift and per the needs of the Pakistani Government. At this point, we’re aware of the other helicopters from other nations as I noted, so four from Afghanistan, up to six from Japan, three from UAE. The UN also has about four helicopters on the ground right now, but going up perhaps to eight or even ten. And that’s in addition, obviously, to everything the Pakistani military is doing.
We are trying – we are doing this, obviously, in very close cooperation with the Pakistani military at their request and in the areas they’ve asked us to. We are expanding regionally in some areas. They’re not all going to be based out of Ghazi. So we’re trying to cover the areas that have the greatest need, but in conjunction with the Pakistani military.
QUESTION: I mean, what impact does it have? Does it cover, like, half of Pakistan’s needs or – I’m sure not. I’m sure it’s probably much less than that.
MR. FELDMAN: I think they’re still trying to assess. Obviously, we’re still getting people displaced in areas like Sindh. The needs in terms of where helicopters are best positioned, obviously, in the north, where the bridges have been damaged, in the less urban areas. And so you’re reaching to some people that need it quite a bit there. You’ve got many, many more numbers in the – in Punjab and Sindh. But in terms of what those helicopters can provide, it’s kind of evolving on a day-by-day basis, so I can’t really answer that with that degree of specificity.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m Kirit Radia with ABC News. I just wonder if I could ask you about some of the reporting last week about threats against aid workers in Pakistan, how that’s affected any of your implementing partners, what steps are being taken to protect them, and if this is an ongoing threat, if you think that.
And on a related note, there was also some reporting over the weekend about an apparent threat against Dr. Shah’s visit that was reported in The Washington Times about him having to leave prematurely. What can you tell us about that?
MR. FELDMAN: In terms of the planning altogether, we are continuing to do things that we always do. We’re working with partners that we’ve worked with for a very, very long time, that are very reputable, very credible in country that have long experience, many local hires, and we’re trying to mitigate any concerns. Obviously, the concerns are always going to be there given some of the statements by some of these extremist organizations. But we’re going to continue to do what we’ve always done and try to deliver the humanitarian assistance that we can as efficiently as possible.
In terms of Dr. Shah’s particular visit, I’m not sure if Carol has more to add on that. I was at the FPC last week when he said that he had to leave quite suddenly. I think that was misinterpreted in some of the press as a particular threat. He did not say that in the state – in the conference that I was at. He just said that they got some information about some actors there and left quite quickly. So I don’t know if that’s the same as you’ve been briefed or not.
MS. CHAN: Right, that’s the same. I mean, essentially, he was visiting a food distribution and has – he was doing other visits in his trip to Pakistan. So I think that that was a misinterpretation of him leaving. I mean, he was on a very tight schedule, so that’s not true.
QUESTION: Well, I wasn’t there, but I certainly watched it on – I watched the briefing at the Foreign Press Center and he did leave because there were some suspicious people, that he said DS told him that there were some suspicious people around and that maybe they better leave, and he didn’t want to leave, that he wanted to continue to talk to the women who were waiting in line. So --
MR. ANDERSON: Yeah, this is --
QUESTION: -- I don’t know if there’s a specific threat or not, but I mean --
MR. FELDMAN: Lars Anderson.
MR. CROWLEY: Lars Anderson from USAID.
MR. ANDERSON: I was actually there. There was no specific threat made, but there were some suspicious people in the area, and so the RSOs on the ground decided that we should leave.
QUESTION: That isn’t the genesis of the threat that – I mean, that – is that – was that at all related to the warnings that went out after?
MR. ANDERSON: No. This --
QUESTION: That was something else?
MR. ANDERSON: Two separate things.
MR. CROWLEY: Charley.
QUESTION: Charley Keyes, CNN. Please, sir, can you give us – to go back to the 30 helicopters expected in the next 10 days, how much U.S. personnel are involved in the support of those choppers? How many U.S. personnel are on the ground? And is the Pakistan Government asking for additional U.S. aid?
MR. FELDMAN: In terms of personnel, I’d have to send you over to the Pentagon for those numbers. I – we don’t have those. And I think they – obviously, it will depend on the size of the helicopters and what the capacity is, so they could help provide that.
In terms of the actual numbers requested, that is in very, very close conjunction with General Nadeem, who’s been running this effort through NDMA, through General Kayani and others. And we are meeting the needs that they identify. And so getting the – up to the – up to 30 there is something that’s been done at their request and in close cooperation with the Pakistanis.
QUESTION: And is the Pakistan Government asking for additional U.S. aid?
MR. FELDMAN: Additional U.S. aid or --
QUESTION: Or additional U.S. assistance?
MR. FELDMAN: Assistance in terms of?
QUESTION: Of flooding – in response to the flood disaster.
MR. FELDMAN: Civilian – the civilian assistance?
MR. FELDMAN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, they are – they recognize that the needs are going to be absolutely vast, staggering. And so everyone agrees that this initial flood response plan that the UN has put out – it was only meant for 90 days, it’s only for relief efforts – that’s the 460 million number. But everyone – and Foreign Minister Qureshi is visiting countries around the world, trying to start raising money. And we’re working closely with the foreign ministry and with others to help meet those needs. What we don’t have yet are some estimated numbers as the damage is still ongoing.
But given the requests by the World Bank – or for the World Bank and the ADB to conduct these damage and needs assessments, which hopefully we’ll have by the beginning of October, we will start using that as a baseline for the international community to try to meet those needs for recovery and reconstruction purposes.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the question on providing any additional security for workers. Is that happening, or is there any plans to do that?
MR. FELDMAN: I’m not aware of anything that’s currently happening that’s different from what we would normally provide. So that’s always factored into the calculus, and obviously, that was done from the very outset here. But other than giving a public sense of that potential threat, I’m not aware of anything different.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. FELDMAN: Thanks.