08/12/2010, 00.00
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UN warns Taliban exploiting Pakistan floods

Millions of refugees left with nothing and UN officials explain that militant organizations can take advantage of the poor. Aid urgently needed to avoid many deaths from hunger, cold and epidemics.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - More than 459 million dollars is now needed in aid for Pakistan plagued by the worst floods on record, according to John Holmes, head of UN humanitarian aid agency. Vigilance is also needed to because Taliban terrorism "is trying to put one foot back in [the region] by showing the people that they are active in these remote areas."

In an August 10 statement the local Taliban described the flooding as "divine punishment" for the country having accepted an elected secular leaders and urged people not to accept foreign aid. Military sources confirm that the rebels, who had been driven from the region, in the last two weeks have increased attacks in the flooded area. They are also competing with the government in sending aid in some areas, such as the ethnic Pashtun region.

Jean-Maurice Ripert, UN envoy to Pakistan, warns that " The people's misery can be exploited by those who have political or militant aims " Holmes estimates that the country has more than 15 million refugees flooding but the disaster has affected over 40 million people, 6 million people need immediate aid such as food, drinking water, sanitation, tents and other shelter, materials for cooking and repellent against flies, "otherwise many people could die from disease or lack of food."

For days, Islamabad has acknowledged that it has sufficient resources to tackle the catastrophe in southern Sindh where thousands of families do not even have shelter and are camped on docks and roads, exposed to sun and rain. They lack everything: the water destroyed crops, livestock, roads and infrastructure, at least 6 thousand villages have been erased. It is expected that the monsoon may continue for another month and for refugees, the situation is harder every day: today and tomorrow new heavy rains are expected, the River Indus water level is at least 10 times higher than normal. This increases the risk of further flooding, primarily in low-lying areas of Hyderabad, 1.6 million people and 6th largest city in the country, which is still protected by a dam, but it may give in to further water pressure.

Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Pakistani ambassador at the UN, said that there are cases of cholera in the affected areas and that "there is a high risk of epidemic."

According to the UN there are 1,600 confirmed deaths, thousands more missing and about 300 thousand homes were destroyed or seriously damaged (but the Pakistani Minister for Information Qamar Zaman talks about 722 thousand damaged houses).

Mohsin Leghari, a member of the regional parliament of Punjab, devastated by the floods, explains that children and elderly people are hungry and ready to attack supply convoys to get access to vital supplies.

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