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.
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