World Commits to Aid Pakistan Flood Victims

The United Nations' 192 member states pledged their commitment yesterday to stand in solidarity with victims of the floods in Pakistan and to assist them until the disaster subsides.

U.N. members made the pledge during their general assembly session on Thursday, adopting a draft resolution that urges an increased awareness of the floods among the international community and a redoubling of efforts to bring relief.

Speaking to the assembly, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the floods "one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times," adding that those affected are "awash in a sea of suffering."

"The eyes see. The ears hear. Yet, somehow, the mind struggles to grasp the full dimension of this catastrophe," Ban said, recounting his recent visit to the affected regions.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called the disaster is a "natural calamity of unprecedented proportions" and said that the country now looks to the international community to show "determination and humanity in its hour of need."

"We trust that we shall be provided with the much-needed support to augment our national relief and rescue efforts," Qureshi said.

Qureshi's optimism was affirmed by General Assembly President Ali Abdusallam Treki, who told the gathering that Thursday's meeting was a demonstration of the U.N.'s special ability to provide assistance in the disaster as well as a reminder of the high level of importance attached to the situation.

"We are in a race against time," Treki said, noting that assistance provided thus far had not matched required levels. "We must speed up our efforts to save lives," he added.

The U.N.'s pledge comes as millions of Pakistanis remain in danger from the country's worst floods on record.

Some 20 million people, or 12 percent of Pakistan's population, have been affected by the floods, which have deluged a 600-mile stretch of land, nearly the size of Italy, down the center of the country.

Over 2,000 people have been killed so far and 4 million have been left homeless, according to the U.N.'s latest estimates.

The U.N. is currently fundraising for a $459 million appeal, fifty percent of which has been funded so far.

Major donors to the fund have included the European Union ($90.17 million), Great Britain ($93 million), and the United States ($150 million).

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said on Thursday that while many countries, including the U.S., have faced tough economic conditions, "we must answer the Pakistani request for help."

Reaffirming her country's commitment to Pakistan, Clinton stressed her belief that Pakistan would come through the crisis because of its "strength, resiliency, and courage of its people."

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