Briefing on U.S. Flood Relief Assistance to Pakistan
Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Mark Ward of USAID is here, just came back from Pakistan so he can give you the latest update on what we see on the ground. And then Dan Feldman, Deputy to Richard Holbrooke is here. We’ve got some meetings coming up later this week and also next week with the next round of the Strategic Dialogue between Pakistan and the United States where on – in addition to a very extensive agenda that we have working with Pakistan, we’ve obviously added one more stream to that agenda which is dealing with this challenging situation in light of the floods.
So, we’ll start off with Mark.
MR. WARD: P.J., thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Let me tell you a little bit about my trip. I visited two parts of the country because I wanted to see in the south an area where the flood waters were still apparent, and I wanted to visit a part of the country in the north where the flood waters had gone down and people were starting to go home, so that I could see the contrast in the assistance that we are providing.
I went to a place called Pano Aqil in the north of Sindh where the water was still pretty apparent. And it was terrific because I got to see firsthand what the U.S. military is doing. Their helicopters were still there, still delivering emergency food to communities or parts of communities that were cut off because of the floodwaters. As you know, as we’ve been reporting to you, they’ve rescued more than 21,000 people so far since the floods began and they’ve delivered more than 1.5[i] million pounds of food. I helped deliver some of that food last week. I wasn’t very good at it. They were very good at it.
It was also great to see the role that the Pakistan military is playing. They were there with us in the helicopters. They are planning the missions every day and they really were the first responders when the flood hurt – floods hit. We got there very quickly, but it’s important to remember that the Pakistan military was out even faster. And we heard some wonderful stories when I was there about their response in those first couple of days.
The waters are going down in Sindh, not as quickly as anyone would like. It’s not raining, so the floodwaters we know will go down. And in fact, in one of the district’s hardest hit, Dadu district, people are starting to go home and that’s a very good sign.
We continue to focus on the same three concerns in that area that we’ve been talking about in every briefing we’ve given you. Number one, getting clean water to people before they get home. And we do that a number of ways by actually getting water filtration units down there so that the water can be cleaned, but also getting them lots and lots of tablets and sachets of these chemicals that can clean water. We’re also buying every bar of soap manufactured in Pakistan and getting it to those people – hundreds of thousands of bars of soap – because it’s so important to keep the public hygiene in check. So far, we’ve managed, as we’ve said before, to keep cholera to a very manageable level. We’ve also been focusing from the beginning on temporary shelter for people before they can get home, so we continue to send in lots and lots of tarps, plastic sheeting, and tents to the people that haven’t gotten home yet.
Food was – has always been our third area of focus and the World Food Program continues to get access to more parts of the country as the water goes down, and they estimate that this month they will get – be able to deliver food to 7.5 million people in October.
Then I went to a couple of places in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the floods began and where the water is down. The Pakistani authorities estimate that 98 percent of the displaced people in that province have gone home. It’s dry, but it’s muddy. The good news is in order to get to the two different sites where I went, I drove. I didn’t need a helicopter, and that’s a very good sign. It took a while to get there because some of the roads were pretty wet, but we were able to get around by road, and that’s a very good sign for the beginning of the recovery phase.
What struck me the most when I visited two communities in that province is the resilience of the people. We went to one community that was very hard to get to – it took us a long time off of any paved road. And when we got there, this community was surrounded by mud, as you would expect, it wasn’t far away from the Indus River or the Kabul River. I’m not sure which one it was right there. There was a lot of mud, understandably, but the communities were taking that mud and rebuilding their shelter. They know winter’s coming and they know they don’t have a whole lot of time, so they were taking the initiative to do that.
We also saw people, if they had the wherewithal to do it, that were tilling the silt and the mud from the floods into the soil because they know they have to get seeds in the ground. Again, they know winter’s coming. They know they’ve got to grow the Rabi wheat. The winter wheat season is upon us and they also need to get some vegetables in the ground.
And the third thing we saw that was very encouraging was that Pakistani officials had already been out to this community to test the water coming out of the wells. We saw four different wells. And we asked the people, “Are you drinking this water?” And they said, “No. We were told not to drink this water. It’s been contaminated.” And they weren’t. UNICEF was trucking water into the mosque and people were going to the mosque every day to get water. And a new drill[ii] was being drilled adjacent to the mosque while these smaller wells are rehabilitated. So that was also a very good sign.
Our focus, as we get into what we call the “recovery phase,” which follows relief – a recovery is marked by people going home. So in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, people are going home and we’re beginning what we call recovery. And what we’re going to focus on there is three things – not completely different than the relief phase, but somewhat different. Number one, we have to continue to focus on clean drinking water. As people go home, we don’t want them to fall back into old habits and just start drinking the water from the well or whatever source they used before, because chances are it has been contaminated. We can fix that. We can take care of it, but we need to tell communities, “Hold on, use these water purification tablets or use these other sources for a while until we can get your well repaired.”
Secondly, what we would call transitional shelter materials. I mentioned that people were rebuilding their homes with mud that’s very available now. Boy, is there a lot of mud available. But they need more than that. And we will have to help them by providing them windows, doors, and they’re available locally, and something for the roof. Particularly in the north, where it’s going to get cold, we’re looking at perhaps corrugated iron sheets or other materials that can keep these homes warmer.
And then finally, and very, very important, is agriculture. As again, as people go home, we’ve got the winter coming in the north, obvious – actually, Pakistan had a good year. They had a good wheat harvest back in the summer before the flood started, so we’re not facing an as urgent a problem as we could be, but it is the time to plant the winter wheat. It is the time to plant vegetables to tide families over for the winter. And so for what we would call vulnerable farmers, that’s farmers with maybe less than two acres of land, the United States, working with FAO, is providing seeds and fertilizer to those families – to those vulnerable farmers, many of whom are actually women, and also some care for livestock that survived, to help them as we say, tide over to help them with this early recovery period.
Finally, looking ahead, before I hand off to Dan to talk about the events that are coming up to keep the world’s focus on the reconstruction that’s coming, it’s going to be very important to remember that in the north winter is coming, so getting those transitional building materials out to people and getting those seeds in the ground.
So as my organization, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, transitions to the permanent USAID presence in Pakistan and the American Embassy that’s there, was there, and will be there. Certainly, public health and agriculture and shelter are going to be big parts of our focus.
MR. FELDMAN: Thanks very much, Mark. I just wanted to complement Mark’s kind of trip report and what USAID is doing on two different fronts. The first is give you a rough idea of what the path forward is in terms of these series of upcoming meetings, particularly as we start to pivot now from the relief phase, as Mark just described, to the recovery and, most significantly, the reconstruction phase. Second is to kind of fill in the picture a little bit about what the U.S. is doing both through other USG entities here at State as well as what the private sector or the diaspora community and others have done since the last time we briefed.
On the series of upcoming meetings, we’ve got three in particular that are worth highlighting. The most imminent is the Friends of Democratic Pakistan ministerial, which will be in Brussels at the end of this week on Friday and will be preceded by a day – by a senior officials meeting on Thursday. The senior officials meeting is quite significant because we are making it extremely substantive in that the World Bank and the ADB, the Asian Development Bank, have both agreed to give the first preview of the damage and needs assessment which they have undertook in terms of the long-term reconstruction needs for Pakistan. There are 16 sectors that were identified; the World Bank and the ADB split those up, and so each have eight sectors. We’re hoping for a quite meaty brief of about 15 minutes per sector, so at least three or four hours spent at the senior officials meeting with all the friends present, the major donors, and the international community engaged in Pakistan getting as much of this information as possible. On Thursday, the DNA will not yet be fully finalized yet, but it will at least give them something to take back to their capitals, think about what they might want to do, both sector by sector as well as potentially specific projects they may want to do, and then come back at the Pakistan Development Forum, which will be held in Islamabad at some point in November, to commit to these specific sectors or even projects that they may wish to fund.
So that briefing by the World Bank and ADB will be very important on Thursday. The following day, the ministerial itself. Our delegation will be led by Ambassador Holbrooke. It will include Ambassador Raphel from Islamabad, Ambassador Munter, who was just recently confirmed as our new ambassador to Pakistan, Alex Thier from USAID, and several others, so it will be quite a significant delegation.
It is not a pledging conference, which we want to make sure that we have clarity on. We are hoping to get all the key actors together to think about what needs to be done in Pakistan and come back at a later date with the specific pledges.
It will focus both on floods – it will start – the agenda will start off with the new reality of what has to be done post-floods, but then very significantly, it will also address the previously anticipated agenda items which are very important, in particular an energy sector reform project that the ADB has helped spearhead, in which the Government of Pakistan will formally endorse on Friday, as well as follow up on Malakand reconstruction plans per the last FODP meeting as well as the next thing that will be undertaken by the FODP for whatever next ministerial will be held, which will focus on water issues. So, obviously, in light – that was planned even before the flood. In light of the floods, that’s particularly important.
We also will hear at the ministerial not only from the new UN special envoy, Engin Soysal, Ambassador Soysal, who is now out in Islamabad on his first trip after having been appointed by the secretary general just at the beginning of last week, but we will hear from the Pakistani Government in terms of both finance ministry as well as foreign ministry representatives on their plans for reconstruction and the path forward, including culminating in this Pakistan Development Forum meeting in Islamabad in November.
So the FODP is the first major meeting. Second, next week from Wednesday to Friday will be the Strategic Dialogue. We can brief more about it, perhaps next week as plans finalize. But the Pakistani delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Qureshi. As we have done in the past, this will be our third ministerial-level Strategic Dialogue meeting this year. We had the first one in the spring here in Washington, the second one in July in Islamabad, and then the third one here. Really, almost unprecedented in the degree of high-level engagement and representation between the two countries.
There will be a very, very strong Pakistani delegation, a number of ministers, and we will have many of our 13 working groups meeting next Wednesday and Thursday, co-chaired by U.S. either secretaries or under secretaries and Pakistani ministers, and then culminating in the plenary on Friday. As P.J. noted, again, the floods is the new reality. We’ll have a separate meeting specifically on floods, but it will also impact, obviously, all those other working groups, whether they be on energy or infrastructure or water or security. And so everything will be seen through the prism of floods, but we also have such important policy work to be done in those committees. We didn’t want to turn it just into a floods meeting, so there will also be a separate floods meeting during the course of that Strategic Dialogue.
And then lastly in the path forward is the Pakistan Development Forum, which will be held in Islamabad. A date still to be determined, but we’re looking at mid November or perhaps late November.
Coming back to give just a little bit more context to what the USG is doing, since our last briefing the government has now committed $383 million to relief and recovery efforts, 333 million of which is just on the relief effort, 50 million is what Dr. Shah announced in Pakistan about a month ago dedicated to recovery efforts. That’s not including the monetization of the DOD assets, including the helicopter support, the halal meals, infrastructure which we now estimate at about 68 million, so altogether a USG commitment at this point of over $450 million.
In terms of the military support, the helicopters are still flying. I know there were some questions about exactly what has been curtailed or not. At this point, per our press release, it’s only the fixed wing assets – the C-17 and C-130 flights – that have stopped given the receding of the floodwaters. The last flight on that went out October 3rd. But the helicopters still remain between 25 and 30 at this point. To date, those helicopters, the combination of both the military and civilian helicopters, have evacuated more than 21,000 people and delivered approximately 15 million pounds of relief supplies, so a very, very significant commitment from the U.S. Government. In addition, the overall international picture is that about 65 nations thus far have contributed over $1.5 billion to flood relief efforts. Of the UN’s revised relief plan – as you recall, just before the General Assembly met, they revised their relief plan upward to $2 billion – roughly 33 percent of that is funded, so about $668 million according to our figures.
In addition to government and international contributions, we wanted to showcase the private sector support. Over $10.5 million from U.S. private sector companies, over 80 corporations contributing to this, particularly large contributions from GE, which gave a million dollars; BP; Boeing, which is commissioning a humanitarian flight; and Proctor & Gamble, which, as Mark noted, we’ve got a particular focus now on water purification. And so in particular, the relief fund that the Secretary announced has now raised over $600,000. We took the first $500,000 of that from the fund. We matched it with in kind assistance from Proctor & Gamble on these purification sachets and an additional $1 million from USAID – so for a total $2 million package on water purification.
We’re working with 13 local NGOs to get those packets out and provide clean water. The first of those went out October 1st, the second tranche went out a few days ago, and then there will be a final tranche. So we’re really putting this relief fund money directly into the most needed asset, which is clean water.
Just finally in terms of the Pakistani-American diaspora, that we, by our tracking, has raised at least $21 million. There was a very successful concert, which they helped to plan and host last week with John Legend, which raised over half a million dollars, and other Pakistani-American organizations are holding a variety of major fundraisers in five or six countries – cities around the country and have organized over 45 relief trips of doctors, nurses, and support personnel. So we’re still looking at a very robust U.S. effort here. We’ve prided ourselves that we were the first in with the most contributed to date in the relief effort. We hope to retain that position as we go into the recovery and reconstruction efforts and, per the presentation, this is our path forward for doing so.
Happy to take any questions.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the response the international community has – the way the response (inaudible) community has responded for the floods? You said only 33 percent has been met of the UN fund.
MR. FELDMAN: It’s no secret that it got off to a relatively slow start due to any number of reasons, including the nature, as we’ve discussed – the nature of a flood versus something like an earthquake or a tsunami. Remember that the pledge – that the initial relief amount was only 450 million or so. And that was increased just two weeks ago or three weeks ago right before the General Assembly. So the fact that we’ve already raised in excess of that, 668 million, I think is quite significant, given that the 2 billion was just increased. So I think the international community, per the special session the night before the General Assembly started when a number of nations announced a new commitment, continues to be quite aggressive.
There’s been a little bit of a tapering off of that over the last week or two, primarily as we wait to see what the World Bank and ADB DNA will come out with so that countries can continue to align their assistance looking forward towards reconstruction with the needs as identified in the priorities of the Pakistani Government. So we didn’t expect that number to go up that significantly. We’ll see what comes out of the end of this week and then the period leading into the Pakistan development forum meeting in November.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I’ve got a question for Mark. Your presentation of your trip was – I –
MR. WARD: Brilliant. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- happy to have said – brilliant, fine, and wonderful and everything is working on all cylinders. I mean, is anything not working as well as you’d like? What needs more work? You gave a very rosy picture of what you saw and I’m just – and that’s fine. But is anything not working as well as you’d like?
MR. WARD: All of us together can’t meet the total needs. There’s never been 20 million people affected by a disaster like this. So we feel we’re providing more help – and I mean all parts of the United States Government, I mean the international community, I mean the UN, I mean the Government of Pakistan are providing more than we’ve ever provided before and we’re still falling short of the need because of the numbers. We’re sticking at it. We’re continuing to increase.
As I said, the food alone is going up every day. And as people go home now, frankly, it’s going to be easier to get to them. And we’re hopeful that as we get into the recovery phase, that we are able to increase our ability to get to communities because we can drive to them. We’re not reliant on a couple of dozen helicopters. I think our success to date is remarkable given the size and the fact that we’ve kept a public health outbreak from occurring. So I think we have to stay realistic about the size of this disaster. The demand on the world community surpassed anything we’ve had to do before. I think we have done a good job in responding, but there is a gap which we will try to close now as people get home.
MR. FELDMAN: Mark raised one important issue that I had wanted to touch on as well. As the Secretary has said several times now, including at the special session of the UN and in subsequent remarks and has been echoed by our senior officials (inaudible) Ambassador Holbrooke, but also the World Bank president and others, the total amount which will be needed, we don’t have a final price tag from the World Bank and ADB, but it’s going to be staggering. It’s going to tens of billions of dollars. And no single nation can be or should be expected to be able to meet that, nor any group of nations. And for it to truly be met, the Government of Pakistan will need to engage in some fundamental reforms and, in particular, tax reform. And this is an ongoing discussion that we’ve been having with them as their finance minister has been in town, that we’ll continue to have with them with the Friends later this week in Brussels and will be part of the Strategic Dialogue discussion. And the message of Secretary Clinton and the World Bank president, President Zoellick was echoed many times on that need for fundamental policy reforms and, in particular, tax reform at the UN by a range of other foreign ministers as well.
QUESTION: A couple of things on the numbers. You said that total U.S. assistance pledged so far was more than 450 million. Does that include the costs of running – of operating the military assets that are now there?
MR. FELDMAN: Yeah, that’s why I split that out. It’s 383 million not including that, and then we have a pretty good, but still a guesstimate of what the monetized DOD inputs are and that’s the $68 million at this point.
QUESTION: Great. And then second thing, you said that there are still – I think you said 25 to 30 helicopters operating. Is that down from however many had been before? And if so, by how much?
MR. FELDMAN: No, it’s actually remained very consistent.
QUESTION: I see. Okay.
MR. FELDMAN: We have been going between 25 and 30. Not exceeding 30, but depending on the rotating between the ship, between the Peleliu and (inaudible) where they are in Pakistan. It’s been roughly that amount and my most current data, as of this morning, is that it’s at about 26 helicopters.
QUESTION: And then the – you said that C-1 – the C-130s had ceased flying. What were their – what was their primary mission?
MR. FELDMAN: I think you might be able to –
MR. WARD: Very simple. Where there was a landing strip, they brought in the bulk. For example, the food, which then the helicopters – or now, trucks – take from there and then can distribute. So for example, at Ghazi in the north, where they were able to land, they took the heavy lift and then we were able to parse it out there.
QUESTION: And given the scope of the problem and the need, why is it no longer necessary? Do you simply have enough stocks there now to be distributed, and therefore you can cease that? Or do you have other ways of getting it there or –
MR. WARD: Good question. It’s absolutely important in the north to preposition food for winter and we’re starting to do that with WFP, but we can rely on trucks now. And to the extent we still need smaller lift, the helicopters are still there to get up into some of the communities up in the mountains where it’s still not possible to drive. But the basic answer is, as the roads open, you don’t need the fixed wing assets.
QUESTION: And one last question, Mr. Feldman. Tax reform is an issue that the Pakistani Government has struggled with for decades, and not with a lot of success. Do you sense any genuine willingness on the part of the current government to actually engage in the kind of thorough going tax reform that would be necessary to broaden the tax base and increase the revenue flow, or not? This has been very hard for them for a long time.
MR. FELDMAN: It has been. But I think there’s a recognition that this is a real target of opportunity right now to engage in fundamental policy reform. And certainly, Foreign Minister Qureshi who co-chaired that UN special session just a few weeks ago with the Secretary General, said at the end of it, I’ve heard the international community on this point; we will take this back to Pakistan. It’s certainly part of our ongoing dialogue at the highest levels and will continue to be so. So I do hope that there’s a real opening here because it’s fundamentally necessary to meet the needs that are currently there.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m asking this question on behalf of the Pakistanis in the area and also maybe Americans asking the same question. That ever since Pakistan was created, billions of dollar had gone to Pakistan, and even today, everybody talking and giving and giving and giving, but aid is not reaching to the poor people and billions of dollars were already (inaudible) to Pakistan. What they’re asking is that anybody talking about the accountability and the corruption – flow of corruption? Because, still, the people are not getting the billions of (inaudible) aid going and including the disease and other food and shelters all that.
MR. WARD: Yeah. Well, I mean, I can begin by just saying that’s wrong, at least in the initial flood relief. The reason why we don’t have a cholera epidemic is our assistance. The Government of Pakistan’s public health system has done a good job, but we’ve had to supplement it. We’ve opened 50 additional clinics. We’re adding mobile clinics now, as people go home in the Punjab, because we know that some of their health clinics were damaged by the floods. So the international community has been there. Yes, given a flood of this size, I go back to the answer to the other gentleman’s question: We’ve never seen anything this big before.
You’ll find communities where they haven’t seen us yet; we accept that. As people go home, I believe it’s going – that’s going to be less and less the case. But we have made a difference. We’re feeding almost 7 million people a month. We’re getting – what we call temporary housing materials, or transitional housing materials out to over a million people, which they’re going to need as they rebuild for the winter. So, yes, you can find these isolated communities where they haven’t seen us yet. I visited one last week and we delivered them food and they looked very happy to get it. And of course, we’re sorry that we hadn’t gotten it there before. But in a disaster of this size you have to do triage. You have to go where you’ve heard the needs are greatest, and I think we’ve done a very good job of focusing on the public health issue and going where we hear that there are public health outbreaks and dealing with it.
QUESTION: And sir, since you –
MR. FELDMAN: Yeah, I’ll just – let me just piggy back two things. One is that Foreign Minister Qureshi also mentioned this that evening before the G-8 started – excuse me – saying that there would be a blue panel commission looking at some of these accountability issues. Second of all, that a large part of our assistance thus far has gone towards UN agencies, international NGOs, and some domestic NGOs.
Thank you, Mark.
QUESTION: Drink some hot water.
MR. FELDMAN: That will – clean water. That will – that is hoping to get this out as effectively as possible. But given the needs, I mean, it’s just a gargantuan effort.
QUESTION: But there’s – as you well know, there’s tremendous animus among parts of the Pakistani population towards the United States. And I wonder if you discern any change as a result of this very reasonable relief and eventually, hopefully, a reconstruction effort. Do you sense it diminishing at all or not?
MR. WARD: Well I – while Dan’s choking – (laughter) – I will – I can tell you that we’ve been out there now for over two months with teams in the field in a lot of different locations, and knock on wood, so far, we haven’t – that – there hasn’t been any push back in terms of our ability to get out and get the job done. So – and the same applied during the earthquake, five years ago, this month. When there is a humanitarian crisis, people are very pleased to get the help, and at the end of the day, of course, we hope they will know that the United States was there first and in such a big way. But right now, our focus is on helping them, not so much on making sure that they know where it’s coming from. We’ve got a lot of people to help.
MR. CROWLEY: (inaudible) just got a quick –
QUESTION: I just –
MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible) got a quick one and then Dan’s got to go to a meeting.
MR. FELDMAN: Yeah, and I’ll just say one more point on that. I mean, we haven’t – yeah, at my own expense. We – obviously, we’re there because of the humanitarian crisis. I mean, that’s not the purpose or reason that we’re there, and we’ll see what polling comes up with whenever it’s done; I’m not sure when that might happen.
I do think we’ve seen a very significant change in the media towards the U.S. in Pakistan; it’s quite notable. I’ve been interviewed by Pakistan media commenting on it, as well as by U.S. outlets here who have done kind of a review of it. And so if you look kind of anecdotally over the course of this, over the last few months, I think there has been quite a change in posture towards the U.S. We’ll see if it stays. We’ll see – I do think that we’re in place to capitalize it unlike – capitalize on it, unlike the earthquake a few years ago, because it’s against the framework of the Strategic Dialogue, of the overarching relationship with the long-term sustained commitment, and of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman money. So we – I think that we can showcase that we are not only there during this crisis, but there for the long-haul, and hopefully that that will change perceptions in Pakistan.
MR. CROWLEY: Courtney, last one.
QUESTION: Just very quickly while we have you here – do you have any information about a civilian plane crash near Kabul?
MR. FELDMAN: I don’t, at all. No.
QUESTION: Thought I would ask as long we have you here.
MR. FELDMAN: Yeah, no. I’m sorry.
MR. CROWLEY: Gentlemen, thank you.
[i] Correction in total to more than 15 million pounds of relief supplies, including food
[ii] A new well was being drilled