UNITED NATIONS – UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. says it's making the largest disaster appeal ever, asking the world's governments and humanitarian groups to raise a total of $2 billion for Pakistan's flood victims.
Previously, the largest appeal for disaster relief was the $1.5 billion in aid for victims of the devastating January earthquake in Haiti.
The $2 billion appeal announced Friday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon includes the nearly $500 million the U.N. initially asked countries and organizations to donate after the onset of massive flooding nearly two months ago.
Since then, the flooding has continued to spread, affecting more than 20 million people across a region of at least 160,000 square kilometers (62,000 square miles) — an area larger than England.
"We have all been struck by the enormous scale of the crisis," Ban said. "The human tragedy is immense and it is growing. The flood waters are (still) moving."
The floods killed more than 1,700 people and damaged or destroyed nearly 1.9 million homes over the summer.
Food, shelter and other emergency aid is still being supplied to displaced people in areas that remain under water. In regions where floodwaters have receded, aid is needed for early recovery efforts.
Crops, irrigation, drainage and storage facilities were devastated across the largely agricultural nation. Farmers who lost crops and who cannot plant again by November will probably remain dependent on aid well into 2012, the U.N. says.
Ban said children and pregnant women have been left particularly vulnerable by the crisis. "Pakistan is not facing just one humanitarian crisis, but many," Ban said. "All of this makes the Pakistan floods the worst disaster the United Nations has responded to in its 65-year history."
The U.N.'s new humanitarian chief, Undersecretary General Valerie Amos, said countries had already been generous this year, contributing more than $5 billion so far in response to various U.N. appeals for humanitarian relief.
"But more is now needed," Amos said. "We must do our part. We simply cannot stand by and watch the immense suffering in a disaster of this scale," she added.
The U.N. is seeking funding for food, health, education, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as the operating of camps for displaced people, the recovery of the country's farm sector, and rebuilding of communities.
Officials from the U.N. and its partner agencies, Pakistan, and other countries are holding a high-level meeting at the United Nations on Sunday to discuss the flood disaster.