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Video and Text: Secretary Clinton and USAID Administrator Shah: Remarks on the Flooding in Pakistan

Remarks on the Flooding in Pakistan

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Treaty Room
Washington, DC
August 4, 2010

Good morning. Good morning, everyone. As you know, the people of Pakistan are dealing with a major challenge. Last week’s flash floods, the worst in more than 80 years, have affected some three million Pakistanis nationwide. An estimated 1,500 people have lost their lives, but many more are missing. Thousands are trapped and hundreds of thousands require emergency assistance.

In addition to the floods, a suicide bomber struck just a few hours ago near a major market in Peshawar killing three people, including a government official, and wounding several more. Violence like this is abhorrent at any time, but especially at this time of crisis for the Pakistani people. And I want to convey the condolences of the American people to the Pakistani people on behalf of everything they are confronting.

I’ve been to Pakistan, as you know, a number of times, and I have seen firsthand the strength and resilience of the people of Pakistan. They have the capacity to come through this challenge and swiftly rebuild. And as they do, they can look to the United States for our support.

The United States is responding to this crisis in a number of ways. We immediately committed $10 million in aid. U.S. humanitarian relief experts have been deployed to the field. U.S. helicopters have already airlifted hundreds of people out of danger and delivered critical supplies including hundreds of thousands of halal meals. We’ve sent boats to help with the search and rescue. Water purification – excuse me – we’ve sent boats to help with the search and rescue and water purification units to provide clean water for thousands of people as well as temporary bridges to replace the bridges damaged by the floods. All of this has been done in close coordination with the Government of Pakistan and their disaster management specialists. This represents just the start of our efforts. We will continue to help Pakistan in the days and weeks ahead.

Now, much of the response is being coordinated by USAID and I want to thank Administrator Dr. Shah and his excellent staff for their heroic work this past week. The United States has a history of working with the Government of Pakistan to respond to natural disasters. In the aftermath of the earthquake in 2005, the United States provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to help millions of survivors. Today, we’re continuing that tradition. We’ve been working hard over the past year to build a partnership with the people of Pakistan and this is an essential element of that partnership; reaching out and helping each other in times of need.

I also want to mention a way that American citizens can contribute to this relief effort. Using your cell phones, you can text the word “SWAT” – s-w-a-t – to the number 50555. And you will make a $10 contribution that will help the UN High Commissioner for Refugees provide tents, clothing, food, clean drinking water, and medicine to people displaced by floods. When prompted, reply with “yes” – y-e-s – to confirm your gift. I just texted a contribution myself, because we know from our own experience, particularly in Haiti, small donations can add up to make a big difference. And Americans have always shown great generosity to people facing crises worldwide. So I urge Americans to join this effort and send some much needed help to the people of Pakistan.

Now, I would like to ask Dr. Shah to come to the podium and provide some more details about what we’re doing and what more lies ahead.

Dr. Shah.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH:

Thank you. Thank you, Secretary Clinton. And I just want to reiterate the Secretary’s points and offer a few additional details. At this time of crisis, the USAID, our civilian and military counterparts, and really the entire United States Government is mobilizing a broad range of resources to help the Pakistani people in specific and critical ways. We’re doing this work in partnership, as the Secretary mentioned, with the national disaster authorities and we are doing it focused initially on assessment, search, and rescue. So we’ve sent Zodiac boats, helicopters, specialist teams, and worked with an NGO network that includes literally thousands of people on the ground to be able to gather information in support of the overall relief.

Date: 08/04/2010 Description: USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah addresses the press on the recent flash flooding in Peshawar, Pakistan at the State Department. - State Dept Image

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH:

In the area of providing food, we’re working with the World Food Program and others to provide up to 150,000 families two to three months of immediate food support and relief, as part of what will be a larger scale effort in addition to the short-term effort to provide halal meals ready-to-eat through our military. We’re providing water units that will reach more than 60,000 families immediately, and it is important to note that we believe the establishment of a disease early warning system to track and make sure that we do not have subsequent public health spread – public health diseases that spread in this critical time period is important as part of an effort to protect the Pakistani people.

And we continue to work with critical UN agencies, including UNHCR, that’s already providing 2,500 tents, and UNICEF that is poised to provide and meet the water needs of nearly 700,000 Pakistani people in this region. They’re able to do this because they’ve been active in these areas for a number of years and have responded in Pakistan to previous natural disasters, and we expect that the entire global community will come together in support of the Pakistani people at this time, and the United States is certainly committed to helping to lead that effort.

We can take a few questions if there are any.

SECRETARY CLINTON: He’s the expert. I’m going to let him answer your questions.

Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) How was the wedding?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, it was wonderful. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: I have a question, Dr. Shah. Beyond the kind of specifics of the aid that you are giving, I was wondering if you could talk about how this is a – expanding on Secretary Clinton’s comments about how this is a demonstration of kind of proving to Pakistan that you’re in it for the long haul – I mean, you’ve seen public opinion in Pakistan pick up after, in 2005, after you gave a massive relief effort. And I’m wondering if you’re hoping for a similar opportunity here to improve the U.S. image in Pakistan.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, as the Secretary mentioned and as the President has highlighted, our commitment to Pakistan and the Pakistani people is a long-term, enduring commitment. And over the course of the past year, this Administration has really recast that partnership through the Strategic Dialogue that has been led by the Secretary of State, and most recently with her visit out there just a few weeks ago. As part of that, an absolute commitment to protect Pakistani people who are suffering from this tremendous disaster is one way to express the American commitment to Pakistan and the people of Pakistan. And from the moment this disaster happened late last week, the President and the Secretary have asked us to be aggressive and coordinated in providing immediate relief. But it’s not – we will not stop at immediate relief. We know that in these types of disasters, especially with flooding – we have some evidence of floods receding – that assessments of infrastructure, the need to reconstitute and rebuild infrastructure, needs to support housing, will be efforts that will take months and in some cases years. And consistent with the Strategic Dialogue we intend to be supportive over that longer timeframe.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow. We’ve seen some Islamic charities and extremist groups try to kind of meet unmet need. Do you see a competition from some of these groups to kind of make sure that your aid or giving it through the Pakistani Government gets through so that these groups can exploit this disaster?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, I would just say that our effort is large-scale and comprehensive, and is being coordinated with General Nadeem and the Pakistani disaster leadership that is coordinating this on the ground. We’re also coordinating this with the tremendous network of the United Nations and its immediate relief enterprises, as well as with a broad range of NGOs that include Pakistani NGOs and others. So we believe we’re fueling the major part of this response in providing services and trying to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people at a critical time. And that’s really the primary vehicle for meeting these critical needs at this time.

QUESTION: You have asked to (inaudible) Pakistan to (inaudible) relief (inaudible)?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, I’ve been to Pakistan twice in the last few months as part of the Strategic Dialogue and our commitment and absolutely will be returning to support the overall effort. But I would just say in this immediate period what we’ve done is sent real experts as humanitarian relief – people who know how to get resources to the NGOs and to the other partners in Pakistan that will be front line of defense for the Pakistani people, and that’s been the priority. So getting that equipment there, getting the boats and the bridges and the helicopters, getting professional disaster relief experts that can do the assessments, and then solving problems for food, water, sanitation and hygiene, and disease detection and support and surveillance, are the immediate priorities and we should let those experts do their work.

I’ll take one.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about any specific efforts that are being made for disease prevention? Is the U.S. considering sending in any kind of an e-med or a hospital – some sort of medical facilities? And then also just a rough idea of how many U.S. are now on the ground there working in assessment. We know there’s about a hundred U.S. military personnel, but beyond that USAID, State Department.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Sure. Well, on the first question on the health effort will be – will commence by standing up this early warning system so that there’s a professional surveillance capability so we know if and when there are disease outbreaks how to handle that and where they are. We’ll also include field hospitals as well as just a broad restocking of health clinics and support. We have a warehouse in Dubai that has been – that stocks a lot of those medical supplies, and we’re already sending commodities and medicines and vaccines from that warehouse to Pakistan.

The second question was with respect to how many people we have. And I would just say that the military support is going to be a critical part of this, and so the fact that they have a large cohort of planners and assessors is very important. But the civilian side has a tremendous capability: We have several hundred staff at USAID at Pakistan, in Pakistan, that have already been there. They have worked previous disasters; the Secretary mentioned the earthquake and previous floods in and around these areas. So they are quite capable of motivating and mobilizing a significant civilian response, and that includes the NGOs and the UN partners that have literally hundreds of people on the ground in these particular places. So I would add that between the civilian and military components, there’s a strong capability and we’re trying to use it aggressively to meet the needs of the Pakistani people.

MODERATOR: Thank you all.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.