Remarks on Pakistan Flood Relief Efforts

Richard Holbrooke
   Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan 
Rajiv Shah
   USAID Administrator
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
September 20, 2010

OPERATOR: Welcome and thank you for standing by. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. After the presentations, we will conduct a question and answer session. To ask a question at that time, you may press *1. This conference is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Michael Tran. Sir, you may begin.

MR. TRAN: Good morning. This is Michael Tran with the State Department Press Office. We’re pleased this morning to have Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah. Ambassador Holbrooke and Administrator Shah will provide an update on Pakistan flood relief efforts, a readout of Sunday’s UN meeting convened by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi, and an update on the Pakistan Relief Fund. Ambassador Holbrooke will also provide a readout of his recent trip to the flood affected areas in Pakistan from which he returned on Saturday.

After making opening remarks, the moderator will open up the line for questions and answers. Please make sure that you identify your media organization and your name clearly. And we’ll begin with Ambassador Holbrooke first who will provide opening remarks and then Administrator Shah.

Ambassador Holbrooke.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be with you by telephone. And I think the best way to do this is, since I returned a day before yesterday from Pakistan, I’ll talk about the situation out there, but leave the conference, its results and back – and more information about the American additional announcements yesterday to Raj Shah. The – you all know, of course, the dimensions of the flood and the statistics and so on, but let me convey a couple of additional points, first, from a personal point of view.

The most – I’ve seen a lot of disasters since I entered the government a long time ago and visited refugee situations where the refugees themselves were in extraordinarily bad shape – Angola, Cambodia, Africa, Congo, and elsewhere. But what I have never seen before – and I doubt anyone has ever seen it before – is the way millions of people are spread out across an area the size of Italy clinging to dikes, living outside the refugee camps, waiting for the water to recede so they can return home to their – so they can return home. This is just extraordinary and the dimensions of it have to be seen to be grasped; flying over an inland sea with trees popping up over the water line, people lining (inaudible) the dikes is quite an extraordinary experience.

Now, the in the two days I’d spent in Sindh and Punjab, the areas we covered can be divided into two different areas, and this is very relevant to what Raj and I are here to talk about. There are three phases to this recovery from this thing. The first is the initial emergency relief and rescue period, the second is early recovery, and the third is reconstruction. Reconstruction obviously can’t start. In Sindh, we saw people in areas where waters are still rising. In Multan, we saw areas where people are beginning to return to their homes. But there are no homes to return to. The homes are gone, the livestock’s gone and dead, the crops are ruined, and it’s in this early recovery phase that I think that we’re going to have an enormous challenge.

So far, deaths have been relatively small, no one has starved to death, and disease has not yet spread. But when they return to their homes or their non-homes, they’re not only going to lack shelter; they’re going to lack food and there'll be stagnant water. And I think great concern should be focused on children under the age of five who will face imminent threats of dysentery, and then cholera will come right behind it. That was the basis on which Ban Ki-moon issued his $2 billion appeal Friday after negotiations with the Pakistani Government, and that’s the issue which Raj Shah will address in a moment.

Beyond the two phases of emergency relief and rescue and early recovery is going to be the immense reconstruction task that follows. No one knows how much that will cost. We know that four or five thousand schools are gone. The Pakistanis are not going to rebuild every school; there will be some consolidation. Hundreds of health clinics, every bridge in certain areas of the country is out, the dikes have been destroyed, the roads are gone, and the dams, when they rebuild, are going to have to be built higher, because there seems to be a connection between global warming and the immensity of the water. There was an additional runoff from the Himalayas here. So the reconstruction phase is going to be really a daunting amount of money, in the tens of billions of dollars.

From an American and international point of view, yesterday was the first of three benchmark events. The second one will be in Brussels on October 14th and 15th. Secretary Clinton and I will be in Brussels overlapping; she for the Foreign Ministers NATO Meeting, I for the Friends of Democratic Pakistan. Dr. Shah may or may not join us, but he is going to be fully represented. And then in mid-November, the Pakistanis will have their Pakistan Development Forum. That latter event in mid-November, which is only seven weeks away, is going to be when we refocus on reconstruction. By then, the waters will have receded, early recovery phase will be still underway, but it will be time to look down the road.

And here I want to make a critical point: We are not – the international community is not going to be able to pick up the full costs of the reconstruction phase, the tens of billions of dollars. The international community has been quite generous already on rescue and early recovery, and no one more generous than the United States. We – as we like to think of ourselves, we’re first with the most, and that includes the helicopters, the aid, the things that Dr. Shah will talk about in a moment. But we do this not for strategic reasons, not because of Afghanistan, because it’s who we are as a nation, it’s what we believe in, and it’s something that has to be done in something of this immense size. And this is, by far, the biggest effort of its sort in modern memory and the largest appeal in UN history.

But when we get to reconstruction, a multi-year project – and all of you are familiar with the criticisms of the slowness of the rebuilding of New Orleans in a much smaller situation. When we get to reconstruction, the Pakistanis are going to have to take the lead. There will be a lot of international money, but it will be only a fraction of what’s needed. And the Pakistanis are going to have to find a way to enhance their own revenue, a point that Secretary Clinton made in her remarks yesterday and the Pakistanis themselves have made. And that is a critical issue. So with that I will stop and turn it over to Raj Shah. Raj.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Thank you, Richard.

I would add a few points. I think, first, yesterday’s meeting was an important opportunity for the international community to once again come together and reaffirm its commitment to the people of Pakistan through this crisis. And the representation was high-level and notable, and the Pakistani Government and leaders from Pakistan used the opportunity to really do two things. One was to present their efforts to improve accountability and transparency for the overall relief and recovery phase. They announced the launch of a National Oversight Disaster Management Council that’s comprised of leaders from around Pakistan and, importantly, outside of government and civil society headed by a former vice chancellor of one of the major universities. So their efforts are – they also announced an effort to create a website that would track and identify and make transparent all funding flows that go into Pakistan for the purpose of relief and recovery.

In terms of the actual relief effort, there was a briefing from General Nadeem Ahmad which was very useful. And he, in fact, reaffirmed what we have been hearing over the past few weeks: that the first and most critical priority is preventing the spread of waterborne illness. In a flood of this magnitude, even as the floodwaters recede, the likelihood of waterborne illness and cholera, amongst others, actually increase as people go back to their homes, but do not have effective and safe sanitation environments. And waters recede, but do not completely recede in a way that is safe and effective.

The United States has continued to work with Pakistan to expand the Disease Early Warning System that we created with them in 2008. Throughout the country, this system has so far been effective at identifying, in particular, cases of cholera and allowing the international and local medical relief community to pinpoint those cases and provide treatment and support to prevent an outbreak of a major epidemic. But the risk is always very high and we continue to be very focused on that, now investing in more than 70 – I’m sorry, 67 diarrheal treatment centers, of which the majority – nearly 50 – will be in Punjab and Sindh.

Second, they talked, of course, about the critical needs in the area of food. As people go back to their homes and as people stay in settlements and camps littered throughout – scattered throughout the country, there continues to be significant unmet needs in basic food assistance. General Nadeem noted that approximately 50 percent of needs for basic food assistance remain unmet. In response to that, the United States yesterday announced an additional $75 million of food assistance bringing our total support for Pakistan’s relief effort to nearly $345 million, and I’ll talk about that in a moment. Third, we talked about the critical need for shelter with more than 1.8 million homes destroyed. And currently, the international community, led in part by the United States, is doing everything it can to get significant plastic sheeting and transitional shelter materials to affected communities.

And I will just conclude with a few comments on the recovery and reconstruction, as Richard noted. It’s quite clear going forward that agriculture will be one of the major priorities. This was raised in yesterday’s meeting, as well as by Minister Qureshi a number of times. Agriculture – more than a quarter of total crop land and nearly a third of the productive capacity of Pakistan’s agriculture has been severely affected. In many cases, crops, livestock, seed stocks, and land are completely washed out, and we are looking at a winter weed planting season, literally, over the next six to seven weeks.

So the Pakistani Government working with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United States, and a number of others are putting in place significant efforts to support an early recovery strategy in agriculture, including widespread distribution of seed and other farm implements and helping farmers as they go back to their lands to have a successful planting season. In that respect, the food assistance we’ve recently announced is importantly targeted to local procurements; nearly 70 million of 75 million will purchase food from existing food stocks in Pakistan. And that’s important to continue to make sure there are market incentives for agriculture to be successful in Pakistan in the short term since so much of the population there will depend on that over the next several months and, indeed, years.

So I think that’s sufficient for now. I’m happy to take questions, as is Richard.

MR. TRAN: Okay, Mariann, we’re ready for the question-and-answer session now.

OPERATOR: Thank you. If you would like to ask a question, please press *1. You will be prompted to record your name. To withdraw that request, you may press *2. Once again, to ask a question, you may press *1 on your touchtone phone.

Our first question comes from Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy.

QUESTION: Gentlemen, thank you very much for taking the time today and thank you for your service. I’m wondering if you can tell us about the increased – some more details about the increased U.S. pledge of assistance here. Will there be an increased pledge of delivery resources such as helicopters? And also, how much of the new U.S. money will come out of the Kerry-Lugar Pakistan Aid legislation that was passed recently?

Thank you very much.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Thank you, Josh. Actually, the $75 million of additional food assistance was in direct response to General Nadeem’s request for additional food aid, and to procure that food aid in a manner that maintains strong local incentives for agriculture to be effective and for farmers to plant and produce through this coming crop cycle. None of those resources trade off at all with the Kerry-Lugar-Berman funding; this is resources that come specifically from USAID’s Food for Peace program which is an independent funding line. And in that respect, this is additional.

It’s worth noting, this brings overall civilian assistance to about $344 million. That’s not counting probably somewhere on the order of $55 million of in-kind military support, including the value of the helicopters and other assets that have been provided. And we continue to provide, really, whatever is needed by General Nadeem. So there’s no trade-off, of course, with our capacity to provide airlift support. My understanding is the immediate priority may be less around helicopters and more around heavy-lift aircraft, but that’s a dialogue that is happening in consultation with Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Can I just add that we’re very gratified by the House’s vote of 396 to 2, to not just a gesture of solidarity for Pakistan, but also very specific statement that they can redirect, or if you prefer reprogram, some Kerry-Lugar-Berman money. We have already announced, during Raj Shah’s trip a couple of weeks ago, $50 million. I’m meeting with Senator Kerry this morning in New York to discuss the Senate side of this. But everybody is aware that – let me put it another way.

We had a very careful plan for Kerry-Lugar-Berman money, which Hillary Clinton announced in her trip on July 19th. The water projects, energy projects – some of you on this phone call were with us on that trip; very well received in Pakistan. With one fifth of the country under water and an emergency, it’s self evident that some of that money should be redirected into other areas. And the amount, the details, and so on has to be decided on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the Congress. So, so far, the only money that has been redirected was 10 million for relief and 50 million for recovery, but I expect there will be more.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Mark Landler of New York Times.

QUESTION: Good morning, gentlemen. I have sort of – I have two questions. The first question to either one of you is whether you feel, based on your trip, that the civilian government is beginning to get some traction in its recovery. In other words, is it simply a military-only show, or are we starting to see the civilian government play a bigger role? And then secondly --

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: You’re talking about the Pakistanis, Mark?

QUESTION: The Pakistani Government, yeah. And then the second question, just a question that may be difficult to answer is: If the Pakistanis were to address these issues of tax collection and find ways to raise more revenue, are you confident that they have enough financial wherewithal to actually finance this reconstruction? And I know that number may not be easy to estimate at this moment, so I don’t know if you can answer that. But I mean, it just strikes me that there might just simply not be enough money in Pakistan, period, to finance this.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: On the first part of your question, Mark – it isn’t just a military show. But by necessity, the military, with the majority of the helicopters – I’m talking about the Pakistani military now – with the majority of the helicopters, the tightest organic organization in the country, the ability to deploy large numbers of people immediately, has to take the lead; that’s logical. Think of mobilizing the National Guard in the United States in a similar crisis. And by the way, the general headquarters, GHQ General Kayani instructed all the soldiers to take a 25 percent cut in rations to share with the people, which is very well appreciated. There’s no question about that. But everywhere we went, the civilians were out there too, doing their jobs. But the logistics has to come from the military in that society.

Now, in your second question, that’s a question we all ask ourselves – nobody knows. We had a two-hour meeting with Finance Minister Shaikh in which we addressed this. They’re looking at various schemes to increase their revenues. We let the Pakistanis speak for themselves. But one thing that seems very likely is that the answer to your question is probably not. And I said at the outset, and Raj and I feel very strongly on this, that there will be (inaudible) need for continued international assistance. But what we need to stress is that at a time of scarcity in other countries, a reconstruction effort cannot be financed completely by other countries; they have to take the lead. The international community will be there. AID will be there; the EU, the Japanese. The Chinese are now getting into it in a large way, particularly in the north, northern – north of Chitral. But Pakistanis know they have to do more, and how much they do remains to be seen and what the needs are remains to be seen.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: I (inaudible) two quick points to that on the point about civilian participation in the overall relief effort. It’s worth noting that USAID actually worked with Pakistan after the earthquake to help establish the National Disaster Management Authority. And they have a series of protocols. Of course, it’s run by former military leader General Nadeem Ahmad. But they have a series of protocols for how the civilian and military assets work together to deliver relief and meet needs. In this case, obviously, the logistics challenge is such that most of the visible effort is going to be transport capabilities provided by the Pakistan military. But that is a civilian military effort, and one that we have noted has been effective in mobilizing assets as needed. It’s the first major disaster where Pakistan has directly led through having its own disaster management authority in that manner.


OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Lalit Jha of Press Trust of India.

QUESTION: Good morning, this is Lalit here. I wanted to check with you where are – you are planning – are you planning to have the review of the priorities in the Kerry-Lugar bill – has that been completed?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I’m sorry, I’m not sure I fully understood what your question was about.

QUESTION: When you briefed us at the Foreign Press Center – sorry, at the State Department earlier, you told us that you will be reviewing the priorities set up in the Kerry-Lugar bill in view of the floods in Pakistan. So has that review been completed?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: No, I want to be clear on this again. We are going to examine the priorities in conjunction with the Pakistani Government.


AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: After we get through – as we emerge from the early recovery phase, how can we tell what Pakistan’s priorities are now when one fifth of the country is still under water or just beginning to emerge from the floods? This is a very, very difficult issue. And I remind you again of how difficult it was for us on much smaller area in New Orleans five years ago, and how on the fifth anniversary, a few weeks ago, people were reporting about still things in non-complete.

We will achieve the obligations, our projects that Secretary Clinton laid out on July 19th in Islamabad in the Strategic Dialogue. And I would point out, also, that the Pakistani leadership will be back in Washington for the next round of this U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue on October 22nd. And I would further point out that Pakistan is the only country in the world in which Secretary of State Clinton has spent three – will have therefore chaired three strategic dialogues in six months: in March in Washington, July co-chaired in Islamabad, and next month in Washington again. So the amount of attention Pakistan’s getting from the highest levels of the U.S. Government is unmatched by any other country in the world with the obvious exception of Afghanistan.

Now, in – back to your question. We are going to listen to the Pakistani priorities and work with them. And we are here in New York meeting with senior international officials – UN, EU, World Bank, ADB – to work with them. This is – I don’t think maybe people fully realize after the tsunami and Haiti that this is bigger than both of those combined by a huge amount, and it’s going to take us a while to sort through this. But Raj has sent additional personnel out to Pakistan. I traveled with them; he sent his best members of his so-called DART teams. We’ve augmented the Embassy; we’ve got task forces in Washington. But let’s see what happens here as the waters recede.

First, we got to save these children whose lives are going to be in imminent danger as they start drinking stagnant waters in muddy fields.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: And I would just offer two specific examples to make the point that we are, in fact, constantly adjusting our portfolio to best meet the most immediate needs.

In health, as I mentioned, we’re expanding the disease early warning system, particularly in the south in Punjab and Sindh. And we’ve expanded the diarrheal treatment centers that specifically target at-risk children to, again, the south in Punjab and Sindh where we think the epidemic risk of cholera and other waterborne diseases continues to actually rise as water levels recede. That’s all taking place in concert with the government and as an important adjustment that we’re making.

A second example is in agriculture, where the $75 million we announced yesterday will reach nearly 6 million people in terms of providing some form of food support to people who have been affected, because that’s what’s necessary. And we’re now working aggressively to construct new programs that will help farmers for this winter weed planting season by distributing seed and other farm implements and inputs, together with the Government of Pakistan and the FAO.

So those are just two examples of how we’re constantly rethinking what we need to do and actually putting in place concrete activities that deliver real results in a timely way.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: May I also circle back – and Raj and I neglected to mention the private sector, but there are some big things going on. I met with the leading representatives of American and multinationals in Karachi: IBM, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Proctor & Gamble, Bank of America, Citigroup. These organizations are all working very hard. Proctor & Gamble, for example, is contributing water purification. General Electric is doing a great deal – water for purification packets.

Now, Secretary Clinton, as some of you will recall, issued an appeal for public funds. We have a special phone line which she herself initiated for individuals to contribute to the UNHCR. We’re going to pursue public-private partnerships for its leveraging effect, and also to get people involved. The $500,000 has already been raised by Pakistan relief fund; the one Secretary Clinton called for. That’s been matched by Proctor & Gamble. The Pakistani-American diaspora has done a great deal here. And I would draw your attention to the fact that India has given $25 million to the effort through the United Nations. So – the Chinese have made a very strong commitment in public. So there has been a substantial international and business and private component to this.

MR. TRAN: Mariann, we have time for one more question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our final question comes from Charles Wolfson of CBS News.

QUESTION: Good morning, gentlemen. Thank you. I’m a little confused by the numbers. And Dr. Shah, if once again, you’d weigh in. Is there – is it 345 million plus 55 million in in-kind? Is that the current number?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Yes, that’s exactly right.

QUESTION: Okay. And that goes up – how do you ratchet that up – daily, with the military, the in-kind assistance? Or –


QUESTION: -- this (inaudible) number to hold?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: No, that’s exactly right. We’re tracking expenditures and resources on a largely, daily basis that sometimes takes us a few days to update the numbers. But we’re tracking that as it’s being expended and spent. So it continues to rise and it will continue to rise on both the military in-kind and on the various types of civilian assistance.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TRAN: Okay. We want to thank Ambassador Holbrooke and Administrator Shah for coming and speaking today and for all the participants, this now concludes our session.

OPERATOR: Today’s conference has concluded. You may disconnect your phones at this time.

PRN: 2010/1293