WASHINGTON: The world needs to step up and be there for Pakistan at this moment, says a senior US official who visited the country’s flood affected areas earlier this month.
“Just devastation that’s hard to get your mind around,” Counselor of the US State Department Derek Chollet said.
Mr Chollet warned that the worst was yet to come. The flood and the displacement of millions of people, he said, was a near term crisis for Pakistan.
“But it’s also going to be a medium- to long-term crisis for Pakistan as communities would be underwater for quite some time,” he said.
“It’s going to devastate crops, and it’s going to create disease and other medical issues that are going to require long-term healthcare. It’s clear that significant numbers of key crops in Pakistan would be wiped out by these floods,” said Mr Chollet.
The United States, he said, has already provided about $55 million in support for Pakistan and also sent military aircraft filled with supplies.
“This is something that we need to stay focused on as a world to try to help Pakistan at this desperate moment,” he added.
Responding to a question about the UN secretary general’s appeal to reschedule Pakistan’s debts for rebuilding its shattered economy, Mr Chollet said: “We (will) have to look at all of these.”
He said the US played “a very positive role in the IMF” last month when Pakistan asked the Fund to resume a loan package. “This recent IMF decision is very important. But when it comes to Pakistan’s economy, clearly this flood situation is going to exacerbate the significant challenge the Pakistani government faces,” he said.
Asked pointedly if the US would support the demand for reconsidering or rescheduling Pakistan’s debts, Mr Chollet said: “I don’t want to get ahead of our decisions here, but … [this] is something we have to take into account when assessing how to help Pakistan in the months ahead.”
Asked if he was satisfied with the response of the international community, Mr Chollet said: “This is going to be very difficult for many people in Pakistan for many, many months as they try to rebuild their lives and their livelihoods and the rest of the world would need to stay engaged with Pakistan.
“Unfortunately, there’s a massive humanitarian crisis in Europe, the largest Europe has seen since the Second World War. Pakistan has seen itself just in recent years massive humanitarian disasters, all countries are facing these kinds of challenges, even here in the United States. We’ve had a fair number of devastating floods or wildfires,” he said. “But nevertheless, what we’re seeing, the scale, the scope of the damage and destruction in Pakistan is something that all of us need to step up and help for many months to come.”
He said that during the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, the US would “do its part” in persuading the international community to continue helping Pakistan.
“We will remain focused on the flood situation and we’re going to remain very closely coordinated with our colleagues throughout Pakistan on the way forward.”