SUKKUR, Pakistan – The United States is diverting some of its five-year, multibillion-dollar aid package for Pakistan to flood recovery and will re-evaluate plans for the remainder because the disaster has dramatically altered the country’s needs, the top U.S. aid official said Wednesday.

The floods, triggered by the start of monsoon rains a month ago, have submerged one-fifth of Pakistan, washed away entire settlements and sparked fears of unrest. More than a million homes have been destroyed. In places where schools or hospitals previously needed improvements, they will now have to be built from scratch.

“I fully envision some of the priorities will have to shift, and shift so that there’s more of a recovery and reconstruction focus,” Rajiv Shah, chief of the U.S. Agency for International Development, told reporters.

Shah was in Pakistan to see the destruction caused by the floods, which was apparent as his plane descended into this hardscrabble city in the southern province of Sindh, one of the hardest-hit areas. Below, a sea of opaque brown water, broken only by treetops, stretched to the horizon. It cloaked the sugarcane and wheat fields that sustain the region.

Under a raging sun, homeless families and their livestock sought shade along roadsides. Thousands of others were staying at a squalid tent camp, where aid workers briefed Shah on the numbers of sick children and their efforts to teach the brightly garbed women there about health and hygiene.

“Everything, everything was destroyed by the flood,” said Baboo Shaikh, 65, who left his village near the city of Jacobabad 22 days before, a day before the water came and swept much of it away. Shaikh sat with his family of 15 in a low-slung, fly-infested tent, which he described as “congested.”

Congress passed a five-year, $7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan last year and most of it was slated for development. Little has been doled out, but USAID officials have spent months planning where it would go, including to several projects related to water and energy.

On Wednesday, Shah said that “every part of the portfolio” would have to be re-examined, although even that could not begin until the floodwaters recede and needs could be assessed. For now, he said, $50 million of the package will be redirected to flood recovery.


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