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UPDATED: September 21, 2010 NO. 38 SEPTEMBER 23, 2010
Lending a Hand
China offers humanitarian assistance to flood-devastated Pakistan

HEALING HANDS: Chinese doctors operate on a Pakistani boy in Thatta, in Pakistan's Sindh Province, on August 30 (YUAN MAN)

Since late July, Pakistan has been battered by severe floods. As numerous storms pushed throughout the country, water flowed over riverbanks.

The floods, the country's heaviest since its independence in 1947, have left about 20 percent of its territory underwater. They have ruined more than 10,000 villages and 900,000 homes, and destroyed large numbers of infrastructure facilities, such as roads, bridges, hospitals and schools.

More than 20 million people, 10 percent of the country's total population, have been affected. To date, the floods have killed at least 1,600 people, injured 25,000 and left 6 million homeless.

Now the disaster has spread from the north to the south. The worst-hit areas are Pakistan's granaries in southern Punjab Province and Sindh Province; this means the country's agricultural industry will be badly damaged. Pakistan, mainly an agricultural country, may have a bleak economic future.

Analysts say the floods may have seriously ruined Pakistan's traffic and power supply infrastructures, worth billions of dollars, and it could take the government several years to repair them. Before the natural disaster, the Pakistani Government predicted the country's GDP for 2010 may see a 4.5-percent increase. After the floods, the increase might only be 1.5 percent.

Pakistan could not possibly handle the disaster alone and called for international assistance. Apart from other Islamic countries, the UN, the EU, the United States and Japan all provided emergency assistance. They have given some $1.5 billion toward Pakistani rescue efforts.

Chinese assistance

CHINESE RESCUE: Members of the Chinese international rescue team help Pakistani flood victims in the southern city of Thatta on August 27 (YUAN MAN)

China, Pakistan's close neighbor and all-weather partner, has also offered generous help. So far, the Chinese Government has donated 320 million yuan ($47 million) worth of humanitarian aid.

It has offered necessities, such as rice, flour and sugar, to disaster-hit areas in north Pakistan to meet the country's needs. It has also dispatched a Chinese international rescue team, with more than 60 members, to the southern city of Thatta. Upon arrival on August 27, the team set up tents and field hospitals and began work immediately.

The People's Liberation Army, China's military force, has also provided the Pakistani military with tents, power generators and sludge-clearing equipment.

In addition, the Red Cross Society of China and local governments that have established sister city or province relations with Pakistani cities and provinces, such as Sichuan Province and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, have offered assistance, in cash and kind. Some Chinese companies have sent tents, food, medicine and masks as well.

Chinese Ministry of Commerce officials have held a series of meetings with Pakistani officials to discuss rescue plans. The ministry also confirmed the situations of Chinese institutions and individuals in Pakistan through the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan. It requested the Pakistani Government guarantee the safety of Chinese individuals, while protecting China-Pakistan joint projects and projects where China is aiding in construction.

The ministry now is considering sending officials to Pakistan, to evaluate the nation's needs and to help devise reconstruction programs.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik visited the Chinese international rescue team on August 29. He said the Chinese Government had done its best to offer assistance to Pakistan. The Pakistani Government and people are grateful to the team members who had come to work in disaster-hit Pakistan, despite hot weather and poor living conditions.

"They have very good medical facilities and good doctors," he told Xinhua News Agency. "I think that is the best China could do. China is always the truest and good friend (of Pakistan)."

An official in Pakistan's Punjab Province said although China's assistance to Pakistan is less than some large Western countries in total, its assistance is always selfless and unconditional. For example, China offered assistance to Pakistan after this year's floods—and after the earthquake that hit northern Pakistan in 2005—in a low-key manner without seeking excessive media attention.

Moreover, hundreds of Chinese companies and individuals have donated more than $2 million through the Pakistani Embassy in China, the official said, adding that donations are still coming in.

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