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Aid for flood victims trickling in slowly

UNITED NATIONS — Aid organizations and the United Nations itself expressed alarm Tuesday that the plight of millions of Pakistanis flooded from their land has yet to strike a sufficiently sympathetic nerve among donors — neither governments nor the general public — with aid trickling in far more slowly than needed.

They cited a variety of factors for the sluggish reaction, starting with minimal media coverage globally and a relatively low death toll. Other elements, they said, included the preoccupation with economic problems; donor fatigue with natural disasters and the August vacation season when many people pay less attention to the news. Finally, Pakistan itself suffers from an image problem as a hotbed of Taliban activity and the source of renegade nuclear sales, which can give donors pause.

''What is clear is that we need a lot more and we need it quickly," said John Holmes, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator. The international outpouring after recent disasters like Haiti or the Asian tsunami in 2004 was driven partly by the huge, sudden loss of life and the striking images of rescue efforts, he said.

A slow-moving flood with a death toll of about 1,500 people fails to provoke a similar reaction.

The United Nations began an appeal Aug. 11 for $460 million for food, clean water, shelter and medical care for an estimated 6 million people, many of whom, it says, have not been reached with aid. As of Tuesday, nations had sent $182 million, or nearly 40 percent, and pledged $43 million more. Holmes said that it was hard to quantify aid being sent directly to Pakistan outside the U.N. system, from blankets to helicopters, but that it had probably reached $200 million.


France announced that it was sending nearly 70 tons of aid but donated just under $1.3 million in cash. President Nicolas Sarkozy also sent a letter to the European Union suggesting that it send more than the $51.5 million already allocated, to show European "solidarity" with the Pakistanis, news reports said.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies began an appeal for more than $16 million on Aug. 2, of which about 60 percent has been donated, but now expects to double the appeal, said Elyse Mosquini of the federation's U.N. office.

The World Bank also pledged to reroute $900 million from other projects in Pakistan to help in recovery and reconstruction efforts.

The United Nations was planning a special session of the General Assembly on Thursday to focus on Pakistan, with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon scheduled to speak about his weekend visit to the flooded areas. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her Pakistani counterpart are among those expected to attend.

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