From: Michael Georgy, Reuters
Published August 4, 2010 06:36 AM

Devastating Pakistan floods threaten food crisis

Parts of northwest Pakistan inundated by the worst floods in 80 years face life-threatening food shortages, creating another crisis for the politically fragile president and a government perceived as inept.

President Asif Ali Zardari and his government have been hit by a barrage of criticism for their handling of the catastrophe which has so far killed at least 1,400 people. Zardari left for Europe earlier this week, at the height of the disaster.


World Food Program (WFP) spokesman Amjad Jamal said the organizations' workers were urgently trying to reach flood areas in the northwest cut off from food supplies, which a U.N. aid agency said devastated the lives of over 3 million people.

It's too early to gauge the economic costs of the flood but they are likely to be staggering. Pakistan is heavily dependent on foreign aid and its civilian governments have a poor history of managing crises, leaving the powerful military to step in.

"You can imagine for five or six days floods have caused havoc in these areas. People have lost their food stocks. The markets are not up and running. Shops have collapsed. People are definitely in the greatest need of food," Jamal said.

"That's what we fear. The need to rush to those areas which have been cut off for the past week to provide life-saving food."

The mainstay agriculture industry has been hit hard. Thousands of acres of crops have been destroyed in the Punjab agricultural heartland alone.

Photo shows flood victims raising their hands to collect relief supplies from the Army in Nowshera, located in Pakistan's northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, August 4, 2010.
Credit: REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

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