Islamabad: The United Nations appealed for $357 million Sunday to help millions of Pakistanis affected by floods that have damaged hundreds of thousands of homes and destroyed millions of acres of crops.
Pakistan often experiences flooding from monsoon rains that lash much of South Asia from June to September. This year the rains have been heavier than normal, coming as many people were still trying to recover from last year's floods, which were the worst in the country's history.
The money from the appeal would be used to help more than 5.4 million people in the provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan over the next six months, said Humaira Mehboob, a spokeswoman for the UN's humanitarian arm. Those provinces have been the worst hit by the floods this year.
The floods have killed 223 people in Sindh alone, damaged or destroyed around 665,000 homes and displaced more than 1.8 million people, according to a rapid response plan issued by the UN on Sunday.
"The situation of the people who have been forced to leave their homes is dire, and there is clear evidence of growing humanitarian needs," said the response plan.
The return of the floods is testament to the heaviness of the monsoon rains and the limits of Pakistan's weak and corrupt government, showing up its ineffectiveness in the crisis.
As they did last year, the floods are undercutting the legitimacy of the shaky government, which is already widely disliked and struggling against Islamist militants, ever present political turmoil and massive economic problems.
In 2010, the floods followed the course of the River Indus and its tributaries from the foothills of the Himalayas to the flatlands of Sindh, where the river empties out into the Arabian Sea.
As much as one-fifth of the country's landmass and 20 million people were affected at the peak, making it one of the largest natural disasters in recent history. The US army deployed helicopters to ferry victims and aid around the country, and the UN and other international aid groups also helped.
Many of those countries, including the US, have mobilized again this year to help flood victims. The US has said it paid for food packages for 23,000 families and its local partners will soon begin handing out tents, clean water and other supplies. Japan and China have also pledged relief goods or money, according to the Pakistan government.
"The magnitude of disaster is much beyond the capacity of Pakistan," Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told flood victims on Sunday.