Pakistan appeals for flood aid ahead of donors conference

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s foreign minister on Tuesday issued an emotional appeal ahead of a major conference next week, urging the international community to generously donate funds for the country’s flood victims.

The gathering in Geneva on Monday — jointly hosted by the United Nations and Pakistan — aims to raise funds for the victims of last summer’s unprecedented flooding, which experts partly attribute to climate change. The disaster killed 1,739 people and affected 33 million Pakistanis. At one point, a third of the country’s territory was under water.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari sought Tuesday to draw attention to the plight of homeless survivors, many of whom are now forced to live in the open amid harsh winter weather. His goal, he said, is for the world not to forget the victims of the floods.

The U.N. recently warned that the funding raised so far for Pakistan’s flood victims will run out after Jan. 15 because the world body has so far received only a third of the $816 million in emergency aid it sought last October for food, medicines and other supplies for the survivors.

“There was no fault of innocent Pakistanis, but they paid a heavy price because of climate-induced floods,” Bhutto-Zardari said in televised remarks from Badin, one of the worst flood-hit areas in the southern Sindh province.

He said Pakistan has had a negligible role in global warming but still it was still vulnerable to climate-induced devastation. Experts say Pakistan emits less than 1% of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

Even before the heavy monsoon rains struck in mid-June, cash-strapped Pakistan was facing a serious financial crisis. The floods caused up to $40 billion in damages, experts say, and without international aid, Pakistan would not be able to rebuild destroyed homes and infrastructure.

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