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ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Pakistan, Julien Harneis, on Wednesday welcomed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s announcement that the government of Pakistan will hire the services of an international accounting firm for ensuring transparency in the humanitarian relief funds coming from various countries to help the floods victims in the country.

Speaking at a news conference along with representatives from World Health Organization (WHO) and World Food Organization (WFO), Harneis said that the joint flash appeal of the UN and the government of Pakistan of $160 million is getting a positive response from the international community.

He said that countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and others have made encouraging announcements in response to the appeal.

In response to a question, he said that from the announced donations of US$150 million dollars from various countries, so far US$38.5 million transactions have been recorded in the UN system, adding that these are other than the bilateral contribution by countries to the government of Pakistan.

He said the UN Emergency Relief Fund has announced $10 million, adding that they were exclusively discussing how Pakistan could attain the maximum donations from the UN system.

He said that all the international support and funding is going into the government system under the flash appeal. “We are pleased with the prime minister’s announcement that the government will hire an international accounting firm for transparency,” he said.

Shehbaz says PM Flood Relief Fund will be audited to ensure transparency

He said the UN launched a $160 million flash appeal for Pakistan as an immediate relief to the flood victims, which aims at providing critical food and cash assistance to nearly one million people residing in various districts of Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

He added that in the current situation that $160 million may not be enough for relief activities as they had again made an appeal before the international community to grant more funds. “We have a responsibility to maintain financial accountability and transparency,” he said, adding that the resident UN office will keep updating the media on the inflow of donations.

The UN resident coordinator said that heavy rains and flooding swept many parts of the country this monsoon season, adding that Sindh has been the most affected of all provinces.

He said that nearly 88 percent of all damaged or destroyed houses – nearly 1.54 million– are in Sindh, and the province has also recorded the highest number of human casualties. He pointed out that many areas in Sindh still remain flooded.

Based on satellite data from 1-7 September, he stated that floodwaters appear to be receding in many parts of the country. However, many districts in the southern province of Sindh are still heavily affected by standing water, he added.

He said that the floods in Pakistan have affected around 33 million people and it would take at least three to four months for people to return to their routine life. “We have started an immediate response to the disaster, but we are still in the early stages. We have to speed up our response, which needs more funds,” he asserted.

The WHO representative said that the health situation in the flood-hit areas is very complex, adding that various water-borne diseases are spreading among the affected people, particularly the children which need an immediate response. He said that the WHO would need vaccines in the coming days against various diseases spreading among the affected people.

The WFO representative said that together with international and local NGOs, the organisation is providing food to two million people. She said that all the food being provided is manufactured in Pakistan.

She said that special focus is being given to pregnant women and special centres are being set up for them. She said that the WHO has recommended breastfeeding for minors in flood-hit areas instead of formula milk.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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