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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

An Update on the U.S. Response to Pakistan's Flooding Disaster

FPC Briefing
Dan Feldman
Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Department of State
Mark Ward, Acting Director of USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
August 12, 2010

Date: 08/12/2010 Location: Washington D.C. Description: Dan Feldman, Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Department of State, and Mark Ward, Acting Director of USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance give an update on U.S. response to Pakistan's flooding disaster at the Washington Foreign Press Center on August 12, 2010. - State Dept Image


2:30 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today, we’re very pleased to have with us Dan Feldman, who is the Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Mark Ward, who is the Acting Director of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. Today, they will give us an update on the U.S. response to the Pakistan flooding disaster. They will start off with some opening statements and then take your questions.

MR. FELDMAN: Mark and I are becoming quite the duo on this. We’ve done this several times now in the last week. We just wanted to give you a brief update on where USG relief efforts stand with Pakistan. Obviously, the situation is still very, very dire. The flooding has not yet crested. We are continuing to see impacts as it moves south into Sindh and other provinces.

Thus far, some of the key infrastructure is still holding, which we’re very thankful for, but we’re closely monitoring that, and obviously, the USG is working very closely with – and our Embassy and military reps there are working very closely with General Nadeem through the NDMA on this. And the U.S. Government response continues to be as aggressive and robust as the situation merits. We have now pledged to provide more than $71 million in assistance throughout the USG. This is – the last time Mark and I were up several days ago, that number stood at 55 million and it has been augmented since then.

It’s been aided in part by the fact that the UN Emergency Flood Relief Plan came out yesterday with – seeking $460 million in contributions. So part of the new additional USG pledge will go towards UNHCR as part of that. And Mark can talk more about some of the specifics that that aid is providing, including the Zodiac boats and other relief supplies.

I also wanted to make sure that we referenced what Secretary Gates announced yesterday – very, very significantly authorizing the deployment of 19 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aircrafts consisting of 12 Sea Knight helicopters, four Super Stallion helicopters, and three Dragon helicopters. These will replace the six USG helicopters that are currently there on loan from U.S. (inaudible), so we’ll be swapping out over the course of the next week or so those six and putting the 19 into service. The six that are there in conjunction with seven aircraft that have been working with the NDMA have already rescued over 4,000 Pakistanis, transported more than 400,000 pounds of relief supplies. So there’s already been a very dramatic contribution on both the financial assistance and the military assistance.

I want to also say a word on the international assistance. Over 30 countries have now pledged over $150 million. We’re hoping that more – many more will continue to pledge much more, particularly in light of the flood plan that came out from the UN yesterday. In terms of other efforts that we’re doing to kind of increase the public perception about this and the fact that, as we have both said before, this is not just an immediate humanitarian crisis, but a medium-term and longer-term crisis due to food security, the loss of crops, agriculture, livestock, and the longer-term economic infrastructure issues – the destruction of roads, bridges, dams – key aspects that have to be rebuilt over many, many years. And so we are all very focused on both the short and long-term repercussions of this.

Due to that, we are trying to engage the private sector as much as possible. We’ve announced previously some gifts, particularly on medical supplies, water, water purification tablets. Procter & Gamble, Abbott Labs, Coca-Cola have all made contributions; we’re actively seeking many others. We’re talking with other companies about how they can better spread the word through social media and other campaigns. We’re continuing to work with the Pakistani American diaspora community, which has already raised over $5.5 million and is starting to send Pakistani American doctors, or at least offers of Pakistani American doctors, to go to the region, working with NGOs and think tanks and encouraging people to give as much financially as possible.

As with all emergency and humanitarian crises like this, the best gift is monetary because of its fluidity. The Secretary, as you know, with Administrator Shah, launched the text SWAT campaign which, by dialing 50555 and texting “SWAT,” $10 automatically goes to the UNHCR. But if you go to either of the main web pages of USAID, of, or others, you’ll see a number of key NGOs that are very active in the region in which you can donate much larger amounts than $10 directly to the number of international and domestic NGOs that are working this very much on the front lines.

My last point is that we will have one of our first very high-profile U.S. Government officials visit Pakistan next week as – to survey the flood damage. Senator John Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will be headed to the region and his office will release more details later. But in a sign of the continuing commitment of the USG to survey, was there giving his own personal connections with Pakistan. Obviously, as a co-author of the Kerry-Luger-Berman legislation, as well as his chairmanship role, this will be a critical visit to help raise the profile among publics, both in the U.S. and internationally.

So, after Mark has a few more details about how the aid is being utilized, we’re happy to answer some questions.

MR. WARD: Great. Good afternoon, everybody. As I’ve said before, this is a good news/bad news story. The good news for the response of the United States Government to what’s happening in Pakistan is that the Pakistani agency that was set up after the earthquake to manage the response to natural disasters is run by a retired lieutenant general who we know very well from the Pakistan earthquake. General Nadeem Ahmed is a friend of the United States and is working very closely with the team that we’ve assembled.

More good news is that the head of the team that we have sent out from USAID to lead the disaster response and the senior military representative out there in our Embassy are also veterans of the earthquake and veterans of working with General Nadeem. So we have this wonderful trio that have worked together before very, very well, back together again working in a very collaborative way. That’s very good news.

Another piece of good news at the outset of this disaster was that we had grants in place with international NGOs in the Malakand Valley, in Swat, who were already working in communities that had been affected by the IDP crisis last year. We were very – we were able to very quickly retool what they’re doing under those grants so that they could begin to focus more on flood relief, and we topped up those grants with additional funds. So we were – it was much easier for us to mobilize because a number of those grantees were already there, and some international organizations.

I said good news/bad news. The bad news, you know. It’s still raining. The floods are continuing; they’re moving south. And when we have a good couple of days, then we seem to have a bad couple of days. And so that is a continuing problem, and access is a problem. We had a couple of good days, as I said, where the helicopters were able to get up. Today was not such a good day, weather-wise. And when the helicopters can’t get up, we’re not completely stymied. We’re able to still move food and get a certain number of people out with four-wheel drive vehicles and mules. But we’re nowhere near as effective as the days when the weather clears and we’re able to put the helicopters from the Pakistani military and our military to good use.

Let me tell you what we’re doing, just a quick rundown of the major components of the response from the civilian agencies. We stood up what we call a DART, a disaster assistance response team. These are humanitarian experts that we draw from across the United States when there is a disaster. That group is now 11 strong and growing. We have three big warehouses, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at USAID. We have three big warehouses around the world where we preposition commodities that are necessary after a disaster. One of them is in Dubai. It’s empty. We took everything we had and sent it up to Pakistan. We sent, for example, we sent 18 inflatable boats. We call them Zodiac boats, which are obviously very important for getting people out of villages that have been cut off. You’ve seen the photographs. I mean, it’s just remarkable. So we’re able to get those people out not just with helicopters but with boats as well.

We’re very, very concerned about public health right now. And the best way to prevent a public health crisis is clean drinking water. So we’re sending in six very large water filtration units and even larger, what are called, water bladders that are just what they sound like but really, really big that hold the clean water after it’s been through the filter, and then the people go up and they turn the spigot and they get the water out of it. We sent 10 of those.

We’ve sent many, many thousands of meters of plastic sheeting. When the flood waters recede, and they will someday – they haven’t started yet, but they will someday – people are going to go home. More than half a million homes have been destroyed or damaged. Plastic sheeting will be a large component of temporary shelter that they can throw together when they get back, so we’re trying to get as much plastic sheeting into the country, looking forward to the good day when people could start to go home.

We’re putting a lot of funds into grants, as I said before, with international NGOs, some of which were already there working on the IDP crisis, but now we’re also beginning to give grants to organizations who are working – who can work further south as the flooding gets into Sindh and Balochistan and the Punjab. We’re also this time, given the tremendous capacity of a number of old and established Pakistani NGOs, reviewing grant proposals with the intention of giving grants to Pakistani NGOs as well, particularly to give us access to parts of the country where the IDP crisis was not going on and where they can mobilize much quicker than an international NGO that would have to move their operations there. So we’re looking at that as well.

Looking to the future, again in anticipation of that good day when people can start going home – I mentioned the plastic sheeting – but we’re also anticipating getting involved in trying to restore people’s livelihoods, trying to get some income back into their hands so that they can start to repair their homes, they can start to buy some food from local market sources and feed their families again. So we know this will be just – not only a short-term, but as Dan said, a very long-term thing that we will be engaged in as well as infrastructure repair.

And let me just say a little bit in closing about this expression you hear a lot, “whole of government and civil military cooperation.” I’ve been in this business for a very long time – look at me. And one of the most encouraging and satisfying things I’ve ever seen is the way the civilian agencies and the U.S. military work together when a disaster like this hits. And you’ve been seeing, and some of your organizations have been taking, wonderful photographs of the Pakistani military and the U.S. military rescuing people from villages, rescuing people from flood waters, delivering food, bringing victims out. Who tells them where to go? Who puts the food on the helicopters? Who does the triage about we need to go here before we go here? That’s where the civilian agencies – USAID, the DART, people from the embassy, are working hand in glove with the military so that we are assured that those military missions are as effective as they can possibly be. So – and we’re seeing it again and again. This is so reminiscent of what we saw after the earthquake, so reminiscent of what we saw after the tsunami when all of the United States Government and the Pakistan Government worked together to be sure that what you’re seeing is as effective as it can possibly be. That that helicopter is going to the right place with the right food and commodities on board and knows where to land and knows who to pick up and knows where to take them.


MODERATOR: Just a reminder. Before we start taking questions, please state your name, wait for the microphone, and then we all go ahead and begin. Let’s start right here.

QUESTION: I’m Anwar Iqbal and I work for Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. Nineteen helicopters, ten boats, for more than 1.4, 1.5 million people, probably now almost 20 million people. This seemed very inadequate. So the response from…not just from… I’m not trying to blame or belittle the U.S. contribution, but somehow the right response is not coming from the international community, even the Pakistanis living in America or Britain are not coming forward. They’re very, very reluctant. What is preventing them? I mean, one reason that comes to mind is the lack of trust in the present Pakistani Government. People say, openly when you go to them, they will steal our money and run away, particularly with this president. They seem very upset.

Then if – and I’ve spoken to my American friends, they say that they feel that we will give them money and the credit will go to the Taliban. So how do you overcome this and what do you do? How to actually get the people involved and why are not they involved so far?

MR. WARD: I can’t answer the second question – why are they not involved so far. It might have something to do with what you said about their fears about where the money can go. Dan mentioned what people can do if they want to make a contribution. And we are – we, the United States Government, are working hand in glove with the Pakistani Government to coordinate our assistance with them behind their leadership. But there are also NGOs out there that you know very well, international NGOS, and we would hope that the Pakistani diaspora in the United States, in the UK, the Pakistani diaspora across the world, would make contributions to the NGOs that are working there, who they know and trust.

If you go to the list of NGOs that you see on our website on State’s website, you’re going to recognize names of organizations that have been working in Pakistan for decades very effectively. A contribution to those directly is a very good contribution.

MR. FELDMAN: Let me just say a few more words on – in response. First of all, I think a flood like this obviously poses a very different type of media response than something immediate and dramatic like an earthquake. And thankfully, the number of deaths have – has been far short of what we have seen in major earthquake incidents. So whether the 75,000 or more from 2005 in Pakistan, the Haiti earthquake, others – thankfully, even though we’ve got 14 million people or more impacted at this point, the deaths have remained roughly around 1,400. And so the story, as a story, is very different. It is incremental in nature. And it takes quite a while for people to focus in on it and see what the implications are, especially when we – as we keep noting, the ramifications may well be medium term and longer-term in nature, as well as more immediate.

I think that you are starting to see the results of that engagement. But it will continue to be hard not only because of the type of story, but because of a lot of external factors. When we’ve approached many businesses, they – their own charitable giving has been relatively tapped out due to the Haiti relief, due to the financial – the global financial situation and due to the lack of media attention. And so I think there are a number of factors that could, in part, be responsible, not any one is totally responsible, and there are no doubt many others. But we are doing whatever we can do to address those. That’s why I think the communications’ side of this is a very critical one – building media attention in the U.S., in other – throughout the rest of the world and building awareness of exactly what is at stake, and then also giving people a way that they can contribute, as Mark said. And we are starting to see dividends. I think on the U.S. side, the fact that we are going from 6 to 19 helicopters since yesterday is very, very significant – I mean, a tripling of the lifts in terms of what can be done. And we are working very actively with the international community to help match that and surpass that. And so NATO is considering a request. We’ve had a number of bilateral discussions. The Government of Pakistan has obviously had a number of bilateral discussions with other key international actors that could help to provide that. And then we had the UN response plan yesterday.

And in a place like the UK, we have seen a pretty robust response from the government. I think it’s about £33 million at this point. But interestingly, they had a very significant response from the private sector, and particularly from the Pakistani diaspora community in Britain. And that’s why we are so intent on focusing on the diaspora community, on the business community, on NGOs here in the U.S. And I do think you’re seeing a change in the tenor and the amount of publicity at this point. I know ABC News led with this story last night. I saw it for the first time on the CNN front – head story last night, the Post, the Times, and then we’re continuing to do a lot of local Pakistani media to make sure that the word is getting out. So I do think that this will continue to build and increase, but it’s a very different type of tragedy than others that have had a more immediate response.

MODERATOR: Okay. Let’s go here.

QUESTION: Thank you. Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and Asia Today. I had a question, but now maybe I’ll follow him, because many people have concern why people are not sending money compared to Haiti that – only $12-, $13,000 have raised to Pakistan from texting; not millions of dollars.

There are factors that – because of – first from the last earthquake, people are still asking where is the money. They are still – they don’t have, still, shelters. So trust is not there, because if you are actually helping, what they are saying – do not give in the hands of the politicians or the military, but it should go directly to the people to help them out and rescue them and all that, whatever you are doing. That’s why U.S. really – what they are saying does not have big impact in Pakistan among people. Maybe you are doing good with the military and with the civilian government, but not with the people.

My question is here that – like he says, how can you send this help to the people of Pakistan, not to the military or to the politician and civilian government? This is what you have to do – control the corruption, because unfortunately, the president of Pakistan is also labeled as a Mr. Ten Percent and many others. So how can you do that?

MR. WARD: We respond in several different ways. We – as I said, we work closely with the government. We will ultimately provide some of our assistance through the government. But we also, as I started to explain at the beginning, we – our initial response was through NGOs that were already there. And we’ve already given them tens of millions of dollars in additional grant resources. We’re putting new grants in place with NGOs to work in the south as the flood spreads south.

Now, is that getting to the people? They’re on the ground in the districts affected by the flood. That is – our experiences in a disaster situation, that is the most effective way to have impact in the local area. I mentioned that we are now also looking at proposals from Pakistani NGOs who have even greater access to areas that might create either security concerns or just access concerns for an international NGO. And we haven’t done that before, after an international disaster at this early stage, but the fact is that the capacity of some of the Pakistani NGOs that have been around for a very long time is excellent. And we should use them and we are going to use them.

We think that is getting our assistance to the people. We think it’s also important, though, also to strengthen the systems of the government. Whatever concerns people have, we think we can’t turn away from supporting the government. We need to work with the government to strengthen their mechanisms, to see that the money that we give them is getting more effectively to the people. So we’re going to pursue this both ways.

MR. FELDMAN: In absolutely full agreement with Mark. First of all, on the first part of your question, I don’t think it’s a fair analogy between Haiti, which had such the magnitude of that death toll and so close in proximity to the U.S. and the degree to which knowledge about the texting campaign and everything else was known, you can currently draw to the texting campaign in Pakistan. We – that has just been launched. We’re still in the process of trying to start publicizing it. And I think that it will continue to increase quite a bit, and it paid off in the Swat humanitarian crisis last year.

But in terms of what needs to be done on the ground, Mark is exactly right. We have to both build the capacity of the government, because they have a critical role to play here. But we are also working whenever possible directly with NGOs that directly benefit the people, and through these very, very long-standing relationships with a number of key international and domestic NGOs, as well as UN agencies that have a very good track record in doing – in providing help directly to people. We are continuing to do that and a lot of USG money and a lot of other money is going to that. I know that Ambassador Patterson and others just yesterday had a meeting with key NGOs to try to figure out how we could continue to get that aid out most effectively.

Obviously, you also need a combination of assets if it’s being implemented and administered by NGOs. But because the roads and bridges have been washed out and they can’t actually access it and they need help with boats, with helicopters, with anything else, it has to be a joint effort. And so that’s why we’re trying to make sure that every aspect of this relief effort is funded.

QUESTION: May I make a quick follow-up, just a very quick one, different one? Nobody can fight with nature, anybody in the world. But still, are you talking about something long-term plan with the – like, let’s say World Bank, the IMF, and the international community to do something like this? Because this is going – this is happening every year, monsoon and floodings and all that. Long-term projects in the area, in the region that you might – it might help and stop and some kind of long-term plans and some building a dam or something like that, that this might reduce some of these deaths and homelessness and all that?

MR. WARD: Yeah, it’s a very good question. We have an expression in the United States that “Nobody likes to fix the roof until it starts raining.” I’m sure in your parts of the world, you’re always thinking ahead and you’re making repairs before it starts raining.

This is a constant challenge we have in the development business – how to get money – how to spend money on a problem that hasn’t manifested itself yet. It’s difficult. But we have the key ingredient here, and that is this new agency in the Pakistan Government, the National Disaster Management Agency. The United States helped establish it after the earthquake. It is small, it needs more capacity, it needs more people, it needs more planning capacity, it needs to have offices across the country, which it’s starting to open now.

But we now see, and the Pakistan Government now sees the value of that agency. This will be one of the silver linings of the flood, is that this has demonstrated what tremendous impact this agency can have. So we have already started talking about what we can do to help it now and what we can do to help it long term so that it can have programs out in the parts of Pakistan that always gets floods, so that we’re educating the people about what to do, so that we’re educating the people about what kinds of walls to build, what kinds of barriers to water to build.

We’ve seen so much success with this in Bangladesh where they have the annual typhoons and cyclones. Some preventive measures between those disasters have saved tens of thousands of lives in the last couple of years. That’s the model we’d like to reproduce in Pakistan.

MR. FELDMAN: I just have one or two quick points on that. Obviously, first of all, this situation is far from closure, and so we will have to continue to assess exactly what the needs are and see what happens. And though this does happen every year, monsoon rains, this is of a historic proportion. I mean, it far exceeds anything, certainly since 1929, perhaps in recent history.

MR. WARD: I remember the one in ’29. (Laughter.)

MR. FELDMAN: How does it compare? But – and Mark answered from the developmental angle. From the policy angle, I would say we will also continue looking at ways, through the U.S. commitment, through the Kerry-Lugar-Berman funding which had already indentified many of these key issues. We’ve already talked about rebuilding infrastructure, energy projects, focusing on clean water, potable water, health issues, agricultural issues. Almost everything that is currently being impacted was part of some of those five or six key areas that we had targeted Kerry-Lugar-Berman money for, some of it in the same areas. And so we will have to see, once we can finally do a real assessment, what the degree of overlap is and how we can continue to use all the resources that we have at our disposal to meet the needs.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Why don’t we go to the young lady in the green and then there.

QUESTION: I’m Ingeborg Eliassen of the Stavanger Aftenblad of Norway. So, in trying to understand what really is at stake, could you explain some more on what you’re thinking? What is your biggest worry or what are your biggest worry on this worst-case scenario here, humanitarian-wise as well as politically in the short and more longer term?

MR. WARD: I’ll take the first part of that. Because the rains haven’t stopped, because the flooding is spreading, number one on the list is still getting people out of harm’s way. So if there is a community that is trapped, getting them out of there to dry ground – well, muddy ground, let’s say, because everything is wet.

Number two, the public health crisis, avoiding it, getting clean water – I mentioned the water filtration units. Dan mentioned the very generous contribution from Procter & Gamble, of these tablets. I remember we used to buy them in the shops in Pakistan to clean water. That’s our second biggest concern, is preventing a public health crisis in the short-term and then again as people go home back to their communities, because on top of everything else, we don’t need that. And we’ve had very good – we had very good success avoiding a public health crisis after the tsunami, after the earthquake, and after the earthquake in Haiti.

So I would say in the short to medium term, those are two of our biggest concerns. A little bit longer term is, as I said before, our concern about people’s livelihoods, getting their earning capacity back so that they can make repairs. We’ll help them, we’ll give them tools and sheeting and other things they need to rebuild their homes a bit temporarily. But they’re going to need to get their farms going again, get their livestock replenished, get their shop open again, get some inventory back in their shop so that we can put the Pakistani economy back together again.

So from a development point of view, I would say those are our short to medium term, and then as you get longer term, what Dan’s been talking about – I mean, you look at the number of bridges that have been at least badly damaged or maybe even destroyed, and the damage to the dams, the damage to major roads – those are long-term projects, but no less important.

MR. FELDMAN: I really don’t have much more to add to that. We’re really focused right now on meeting the needs that are there. We certainly have to kind of assess carefully the situation as it develops, but I certainly wouldn’t want to opine on what the worst-case scenario is.

But we do have – I mean, we have to meet the most immediate humanitarian needs. The fact that we are not – yet, at least – talking about cholera outbreaks and things like that is very, very significant and if it takes that turn, that will be significant. And I think over the longer term, we are seeing a real erosion of the economic infrastructure in these areas, and so building, rebuilding livelihoods, rebuilding the infrastructure to help to contribute to that, to facilitate that, helping to replant agricultural crops and rebuild that infrastructure and ultimately helping to build the capacity of the local and national governments to meet those needs will all be critical to this effort, and that’s really where our focus is.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to Lalit, and then we’ll come here.

QUESTION: Lalit Jha from Press Trust of India. A follow-up on Anwar’s questions about initial response and also the response on the American people. You said that it has not been much longer that (inaudible) the SMS* texting thing, but I think it was launched last Friday, it – now it’s a week now when Secretary of State displayed her mobile phone before the television crew in the – at the Foggy Bottom headquarter of the State Department.

So why to that (inaudible) seven days later, you have just 1,200 people from all over the U.S. donating for a cause which – it’s now been termed by the UN and even Ambassador Holbrooke has said that it is much larger proportion than the Haiti earthquake and tsunami disaster. Do you think it is reflective of the people’s low confidence in the Administration’s policy towards Pakistan?

MR. FELDMAN: I really – I absolutely don’t. I actually think it’s far more a matter of people not being aware of it, though I think the Secretary would love to think that many people tune in to her daily press conference, it’s not the masses of people that would need to be able to actually get a much higher number on that.

We’re very hopeful about continuing to build awareness of this. I think that there will – it will get out into kind of mainstream media more. I actually don’t know the total numbers that were texted in Haiti. There is not as much of a texting culture, I think, here as in Europe and elsewhere, so I’m not sure we’ll ultimately see that all coming in from texting. But as we build awareness about this and then give people other avenues as well to contribute through international NGOs, through UN agencies, I think you’ll see the number go up. But I wouldn’t make any sort of line between that and the view of the policy towards Pakistan.

QUESTION: Actually, yesterday, P.J. at the State Department told us in 30 days, in Haiti, the texting raised around 30 million, so one million a day. I mean, it’s – that’s quite a large number compared to the 1,200 here.

MR. FELDMAN: Yeah, but you also had huge movie stars doing benefits for that, really getting it out into popular culture, I think, in a way that we have not done yet. And again, I think that was the dramatic nature of it, the unbelievably high death toll there and the fact that it’s in such proximity to the U.S. I don’t think you can draw analogies. But we will continue to work on it and continue to build word of mouth and media attention for it and raise however much we can.

QUESTION: And are you satisfied with the international response that you have got so far?

MR. FELDMAN: I think it continues to grow and we are working very closely on it. In fact, this morning, just a few hours ago, we had a meeting of embassy representatives from about 40 different countries, all members of the special representatives collective, so Ambassador Holbrooke and his colleagues from each of the other nations that have appointed SRAPs, as we call them.

And we had a whole presentation from the UN on what the response plan is, what other nations are doing. I think we’ve already had a reasonable response, but we are looking to increase it dramatically. As I said, we’ve – I think that the estimates of non-U.S. pledges at this point are about 157 million from over 30 countries. But many were looking for a conduit to donate more, and the fact that the UN response plan came out yesterday and gives them that ability, I think you’ll see much, much more. And there’s a lot of discussion within the international community about how we can continue to coordinate that and meet those needs, including using already-existing mechanisms – the special representatives group, the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, which is supposed to meet in October through UN agencies bilaterally, and I think you’ll see much, much more from the international community.

MR. WARD: We’ve also seen some very, very timely and useful in-kind contributions from other countries. I believe we welcomed – Pakistan welcomed four helicopters from Afghanistan late last week into Peshawar, and we hope to see more of the same from countries in Asia and the Gulf.

(Cross talk)

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MODERATOR: Let’s go right here.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m – my name is Mohammed and I’m an American physician working locally. I was born in South Punjab. Lately, people are dying and with hunger, disease, and water. And there are two fears which – I believe you guys can help. One, the fear, immense fear of individual donors; as stated in BBC, the (inaudible), they rightfully are on the grounds, and that is really a big wall in front of them. And it’s not only an American community, it is global Muslim population. Because we Americans, we were monitoring even a thousand dollar going out of the country; that’s one. If you can lower the bar of the fear.

Second is if they donate directly, this fear is there. If they donate to U.S. and European organization, they’re all at 65 percent. Then food – price here, if we buy here, is at least 10 times more than bought locally, which will help the local economy. Can you help us?

MR. WARD: Let me respond to the last part of that first. Please don’t buy food here and send it there. The U.S. Postal Service might like that, but it just gets in the way, and chances are by the time it gets there, it’s not very useful anymore.

We made a contribution early on to the World Food Program of almost $15 million to buy food in Pakistan. And that’s exactly the right thing to do because you’re making a very good point; while all of this is going on, we have to keep the Pakistan economy going even though it’s injured. Because it’s going to have to be the steam engine that drives this in the future. So that’s critically important. So this is why Dan says, this is why all of us say if you want to make a contribution, and we hope you do want to make a contribution, please get out your wallet. Don’t empty out your closet. We really need financial assistance.

Now, I’ve been working on disasters a long time and this question always come up – if I give, how do I know that my contribution is not going to an organization that is going to use it for the wrong things? It’s a good question. That’s why we keep referring you to either the text giving, which is going to UNHCR, safe, or the organizations that are listed on our websites that are working there, have been working there for years; again, your contribution is safe.

Do they have overhead? Yes, they do have overhead. And this is one reason why we’ve decided, in response to this disaster, where we have such competent Pakistani NGOs on the ground, to start to use them as well, because their overhead is so much lower than an international NGO. But if you want to give today, and we’re hoping during the holy month of Ramadan that the giving will go up, those organizations that are working there, that have been working there for decades, that is a safe way to contribute.

MODERATOR: Let’s go here and then we’ll go way in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Shaun Tandon with AFP. Just – in Pakistan, even before the disaster, there’s – there are lots of security concerns there, advisories for Americans traveling there. How much does that play into your considerations as you step up the U.S. involvement there? Are there some serious or – some serious security concerns about how to operate there, and is that affecting the decision-making at all in terms of the relief operations?

MR. WARD: Not so far. If there were a concern voiced by one of the organizations we’re working with that they’re running into some problems or they have some concerns in a particular district or area, we’ll hear about it, and we’ll deal with that when that issue arises. But so far, we haven’t had that problem.

Now, remember, we don’t have access everywhere yet, not because of any concerns about bad guys, but because of the weather. When things – when the weather gets better and we’re able to get access to all parts of the country affected by the flood, we’ll see if we have any particular security problems in any parts of the country. But our attitude going in is to be as robust and forward-leaning as we can possibly be and to get into communities that perhaps we couldn’t get into before.

One of the great silver linings of the earthquake was just that. We were able to get into and help communities where we had not had access before, and maybe this tragedy will have that same silver lining, that we will have the opportunity to get in and help people that we haven’t been able to help before.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MODERATOR: Actually, we’re going to go in the back.

QUESTION: Jamal Khan from ARY News. Rehabilitation will be a bigger challenge than relief. Will the world community stay engaged that long?

MR. WARD: The United States will, and you can bet that we will use all of our resources to keep the other nations behind us. The additional funding that Dan has mentioned, the – I have trouble with the acronym – it’s the Kerry –

MR. FELDMAN: The Kerry-Lugar-Berman program.

MR. WARD: -- Kerry-Lugar-Berman funding is robust, and the people in the field who are deciding how to spend that money are rethinking their plans because of the flood, and – but as Dan said, almost everything they were planning to do in terms of better energy, better water, better infrastructure has been impacted by the floods. So the basic direction is right, and the United States had already made a commitment to those long-term projects. And they are long term; these are years of projects.

And not only is that going to mean more sustained development for Pakistan for the long term, but think of the jobs it’s going to create for young people, because when you start talking about infrastructure repair and long-term infrastructure improvements, you’re talking about jobs. And that kind of work can get started as soon as the flood waters start to recede. But that’s the vision that we have in the United States Government for the long term, and we will certainly remind our allies and friends around the world, the friends of Pakistan around the world, that they too have a responsibility to help out with that long-term work.

MR. FELDMAN: The – I mean, as Mark said, the U.S. commitment is long-term and sustained. Kerry-Lugar-Berman, which – the money just started flowing, really – I mean, it was just passed at the end of last year and the money just started flowing earlier this year – is a five-year authority, and so $1.5 billion authorized per year for five years. And in fact, there was language in it saying that they anticipated that it would continue for another five years beyond that. I mean, this gets very far into our appropriations schedule, so it’s hard to do anything like – to commit to that.

But that was the intent, that this was a very long-term, sustained commitment of the U.S. And we are certainly advocating the same approach in all of our bilateral and multilateral discussions of the community that is engaged with Pakistan. And I do think that though it may have been a little slow to grow, in part, given, as we said, the nature of this crisis compared to others, it is being considered now, and we’re getting many, many more international inquiries.

The forum today was a very good way to raise this. We’ve had a number of other phone calls and we’ll see, in the upcoming multilateral fora, through the UNGA, through FODP, through others, I think that you will see, likewise, a sustained commitment from the international community.

MODERATOR: We will give Dawn the last question.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: This $71 million that you have pledged, how much of it is pledged, how much of it is actually – has actually been committed, and how much of it will be spent on the people and how much will go to overhead?

MR. WARD: The number change – the number, of course, changes every day on how much of that has been committed. Of the – of that number, I’m responsible for almost half of it. And as of this weekend – and that’s $30 million – by this weekend, all of it will have been committed. The commitment schedule for the rest of the money is also fast and – but I can’t give you the details on that right now. I believe that some of the money was just announced by part of our government very, very recently, so I would imagine they haven’t been able to commit it yet.

As far as the overhead, overhead differs by organization. Different international NGOs have different overhead rates. So I can’t generalize an answer to that question, but there are – there is overhead for international NGOs. There is not overhead when we send in commodities; we do that ourselves. We have this – we maintain this warehouse in Pisa and a warehouse in Dubai where we’ve provided a lot of, as I said, water treatment and boats. The more that we can use Pakistani NGOs, we will make a dent in the overhead and be able to deliver that much more to the Pakistani people.

And the other – the twofer, if you will, to use an American expression, the extra benefit that we get from using a Pakistani NGO to help us and – as part of our response is we build their capacity to be even stronger and to spread the area where they’re able to work effectively, so that in the future, we can rely on them more and more and more, and again reduce the amount of money that’s going to overhead for things like security and the other parts that make up overhead.

MR. FELDMAN: Overhead is not – in terms of the organizations that we work with, it’s nowhere near a 65 percent level that was just said.

MR. WARD: Yeah. It’s hard to say. I used to have to testify on this quite a bit when I ran the Asia Bureau for USAID. And our best estimate was that it averages around a third, so about half of what you’re talking about.

MR. FELDMAN: And I’ll just say – I mean, look – this is a – as Mark said, we are proud of the way that we have approached this as a whole-of-government approach. We are doing every – this is a crisis. We are doing everything we can to release every – all the monies that we have committed as quickly as possible to make sure it has impact on the ground. You are seeing this number go up, this whole-of-government number go up every few days as we look at all these areas, pockets of money within the State Department and USAID and elsewhere to try to determine what can be released and get to the people who need it as immediately as possible.

And when it can go through NGOs or UN agencies or WFP or others to get there even faster, all the better. And I would also add it’s important, given that (inaudible) exercise to look at the military component as well, because the fact that we have had six helicopters on the ground, that we’ll be tripling that amount of lift, that we’ve been able to save those thousands of people and airlift those hundreds of thousands of supplies, as well as start putting in the bridging equipment that we tried, the delivery of over half a million halal meals estimated at $3 million – I mean, these are very significant amounts that are going directly to the people who most need them during a time of crisis. And we will continue to proceed down that road as our MO and try to make sure that we address this.

MR. WARD: And there’s no overhead on that.


MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you for coming. Thank you.

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