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Possible Targeting of Aid Workers Complicates Pakistan Flood Relief

August 26, 2010 at 6:41 PM EST
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JIM LEHRER: The United Nations made a new plea for more aid to Pakistan today, nearly a month after the flooding began. So far, the international community has pledged $800 million. The crisis continues amid concerns that relief workers are now being targeted by the Pakistani Taliban.

With tides rising in the Arabian Sea, water is actually flowing back up the Indus River, worsening the flooding in Pakistan’s south. In Sindh Province, the choked river is prompting new evacuation orders. A month into the floods, millions are in need. Food and medical materiel are in short supply. Wide expanses of the country’s agricultural hub remain underwater. And now the Pakistani Taliban is hinting at attacks on foreign aid workers.

A Taliban spokesman told the Associated Press about support personnel on the scene: “When we say something is unacceptable to us, one can draw his own conclusion.” A State Department spokesman said the U.S. had information on the possible targeting of aid workers. A U.N. official in Islamabad said those types of threats are nothing new, but that, in this case, it is particularly dangerous.

MAURIZIO GIULIANO, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: It would be totally inhumane for anyone to target us as we try to save lives. If any groups, any individual targets humanitarians at this time, they’re not really harming us. They’re harming the millions of people whose lives we are trying to save.

JIM LEHRER: Eight hundred thousand people are completely cut off, accessible only by air. Disease is spreading, and the medical emergency is becoming acute. Kanjo Mai is pregnant and in a tent camp with her four children.

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KANJO MAI, Pakistan (through translator): I am seven months pregnant and lacking food. I don’t have money for treatment. I am poor. We lost everything in the flood. I don’t have a proper diet. I have pain all over my body.

JIM LEHRER: Medical personnel are dealing not only with the flood, but a surge of women in need of specialized attention. Gynecologist Saima Ismail:

DR. SAIMA ISMAIL, Gynecologist (through translator): Every day 60 to 80 patients are coming to us. Most are for abortions and some are going into labor early, and because of this, maternity mortality is increasing and prenatal mortality is also increasing.

JIM LEHRER: To date, nearly 1,600 people have died and more than 17 million have been directly affected by the deluge.