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Australian medical help arrives in Pakistan

Joint media release: Senator John Faulkner, Minister for Defence and Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

25 August 2010

An Australian Medical Task Force has arrived in Pakistan to set up a medical facility near Multan in Punjab Province.

The Task Force is a joint operation by AusAID and the Australian Defence Force.

The first contingent which arrived in Pakistan yesterday, Tuesday 24 August, includes 51 personnel and 33 tonnes of equipment.

A second contingent departed from RAAF Amberley this morning, Wednesday 25 August.

Up to 180 Australians will be deployed as part of the Task Force. They will include Australian Defence Force personnel, AusAID staff and civilian health staff from State and Territory Departments of Health.

As the flood crisis enters its fourth week, there are increasing reports of the outbreak of water borne diseases and malnutrition affecting people who lack sufficient shelter, safe drinking water and food.

The Medical Task Force will provide medical, midwifery and other health services to flood affected communities in the town of Kot Addu in Muzaffargarh District.

There are currently over 30,000 people displaced in the immediate area.

Members of the Medical Task Force were met by Australia's High Commissioner, Tim George, in Multan on Tuesday and are travelling to Kot Addu to set up the medical facility on Wednesday Pakistan time.

Current situation and outlook

The floods in Pakistan are a major humanitarian crisis. The people and government of Pakistan need our full support as they deal with this unprecedented emergency.

The number of people affected by this emergency is estimated at around 20 million. Six million people are dependent on emergency food aid and four million people have been displaced.

The floods have also set back Pakistan's efforts to deal with major security, development and economic challenges.

When the floodwaters recede, the economic, social and environmental impacts will be felt for years to come. Australia will continue to support Pakistan's immediate humanitarian needs and its efforts to address its longer term recovery and reconstruction challenges.

Australian Assistance

Australia has responded quickly and generously to the flood crisis.

According to the United Nations, Australia is currently the fourth largest individual national donor to the crisis after the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom.

The deployment of the Medical Task Force is in addition to Australia's financial contribution of $35 million to the emergency in Pakistan, all of which has now been disbursed to relevant relief agencies.

Funding provided to date includes:

Australia's emergency relief supplies arrived in Pakistan on 14 August and 17 August by Royal Australian Air Force C-17 and are being distributed through the Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority and the UN Population Fund.

The Australian Government has also deployed 16 humanitarian experts including logisticians, water and sanitation experts and health workers. These experts are working with UN agencies, the Red Cross and Australian Non-Government Organisations to support the ongoing scale-up of relief efforts.

Over the past three years Australia has doubled development assistance to Pakistan.

Australia is now looking at how our existing development assistance programs can assist the longer term task of reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Australia is committed to helping Pakistan respond to and recover from this disaster for humanitarian as well as security reasons.

Pakistan is strategically a very important country which is facing a range of serious challenges. The current humanitarian crisis is compounding these.

While our immediate focus is on helping with the emergency relief effort, we recognise that, over the longer term, a strong and well coordinated international response in Pakistan will help to reinforce regional security and stability.

The Minister for Defence, Senator Faulkner, has sought and received the agreement of his Opposition counterpart Senator Johnston on the commitment of Australian Defence Force assets to the relief efforts in Pakistan. Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Bishop, has also been consulted as appropriate on this matter.

Video and images from the arrival in Multan is available at http://www.defence.gov.au/op/pakistan/gallery/20100825/index.htm

Media inquiries

All media inquiries to AusAid on 0417 680 590