Historic first as flood appeal total hits £29m

Donations from the British public to help flood victims in Pakistan have hit £29 million.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said yesterday it was the first time donations had risen in the second week of an appeal.

Chief executive Brendan Gormley said: "The UK public are leading the way and shaming politicians across the world.

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"We want the rest of the international community to back that sustained giving."

The worst floods to hit the country in decades have left more than 1,500 people dead and an estimated 20m homeless.

An appeal to help the stricken country was launched two and a half weeks ago by the DEC, an umbrella organisation representing 13 UK aid agencies.

It is the first time in the DEC's 45-year history that donations have risen rather than fallen during the second week of an appeal. Donations to the Haiti earthquake fund fell 28 per cent in the second week, those for Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam dropped 62 per cent, Burma donations were down by 54 per cent and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami appeal decreased by 24 per cent.

Donations to the Pakistan Floods Appeal, which was launched on 5 August, increased by 18 per cent in the second week - and they have not yet started dropping.

Mr Gormley said: "It is sometimes harder to fully appreciate the impact of disasters such as floods that take longer to develop. However, the response of the UK public to the floods in Pakistan has been extraordinary.We have never seen anything like it in our 45-year history.

"This is a tragedy unfolding in slow motion, with new areas still being flooded and the threat of deadly water-borne disasters stalking millions of survivors.

"The full impact of the disaster will only be revealed when flood waters finally recede and the extent of devastation is uncovered."

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The death toll was said to have risen to 1,600 yesterday, but Jane Cocking, humanitarian director of Oxfam, said it could rise sharply if there was a significant outbreak of water-borne disease and those affected were unable to get swift medical care.

DEC member agencies and their partners have so far helped more than 800,000 people.

Ms Cocking, speaking at a press conference in central London, said the rough estimate was that 25 per cent of people who had been directly affected had not yet received "something significant".

The priorities were clean water, sanitation, food and medical care.

Ms Cocking, who visited Pakistan last week, choked back tears as she told how one "tough" old man broke down when he was asked how he was planning to get through the winter.

She described scenes that she said were the worst she had seen in more than 20 years of humanitarian work, including 13 years with Oxfam.

The appeal was not for one disaster but for "a catastrophe" made up of several disasters, she said.

The flash floods that swept away homes, farms and roads were one disaster. The "lakes of potential disease" caused by standing water were the next problem. Finally, there was the help needed for those downstream who were shoring themselves up against "the wave that may hit them".

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She added: "We do need more support. We know that times are hard for a lot of people in the UK, but really, honestly, if people can give that little bit more, it'll go to people who desperately need it now."

The press conference heard from Ashraf Mall, the Pakistan manager for charity Tearfund. Speaking via a videolink from Sindh province, he said people were fighting a losing battle. "The situation is getting worse by each passing day," he said. "People are really desperate, waiting for help. Many people are getting ill especially children."

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