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Aid groups struggle to reach devastated regions as flood waters leave millions homeless.
WFP's goal is to provide food for 6 million people, but so far only 1.2 million have been reached. It is relying on 15 helicopters that can carry around three metric tons each. Ten of the helicopters are on loan from the Pakistani army. WFP has received authorization to bring five more civilian helicopters into the country and it would like to have more, but whether it could actually use them is academic.
“The point is that we don’t even have funding for the five new helicopters that we have,” Casella said. She adds that WFP would not hesitate to fly food in on any kind of transport, including transport from the U.S. military, but that depends on political decisions beyond the control of the WFP.
Thomas Schwarz, a communications officer for CARE International who has been working in the stricken area, agrees that at this point, people don’t care who provides the assistance.
“When you are on the ground, you don’t care who is providing assistance, you just take it,” Schwarz said in a phone interview from Pakistan.
Despite urgent calls from the United Nations and the emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, the rest of the world has been slow to realize just how desperate the situation in Pakistan really is.
Melanie Brooks, who coordinates communications for CARE’s emergency group based in Geneva, said CARE’s available funding for the crisis is hovering at around 15 percent of the amount actually needed.
“We have had two massive disasters in one year,” Brooks said. “People extended themselves to help out in Haiti and then this happened. It is hard to remember when you had two crises of this magnitude at the same time.”
Brooks adds that it is hard for most people to understand the implications of the crisis when all they see is news photos of people wading through water. When the flood first began, she said, even humanitarian organizations mistook it for standard seasonal flooding.
“It took us a few days to realize what was really happening,” she said.
Recognizing the need to help Pakistan, the United States has stepped up its humanitarian aid commitment from $90 million to $150 million. Even with that boost, however, it seems doubtful that international aid agencies have either the funding or the resources to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.