Representatives of nations from around the world Thursday called for global solidarity to help flood-hit Pakistan in the wake of the countrys worst disaster in living memory and for generous support for vital relief operations. Make no mistake: this is a global disaster, a global challenge. It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a special session of the UN General Assembly, which adopted a resolution calling for international assistance in support of the Governments efforts to address the crisis. Ban, who visited the flood-stricken country on Sunday, said Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami, with needs expected to grow, even as 15 to 20 million people currently need shelter, food and emergency care. That is more than the entire population hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Kashmir earthquake, Cyclone Nargis and the earthquake in Haiti, combined, he stated, adding that at least 160,000 square kilometres of land is under water an area larger than more than half the countries of the world. The Secretary-General thanked the international community for the generosity it has shown so far, especially in response to the $460 million requested by the UN and its partners through the Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan that was launched last week, which is now 47 per cent funded. Underscoring that the needs are great, and the disaster is far from over, Ban asked nations to respond urgently to the emergency response plan and help humanitarian agencies deliver the food, water, shelter and health care that millions in Pakistan so desperately need. More than 45 speakers, including high-level officials from a number of countries, were scheduled to address the meeting, which is taking place on World Humanitarian Day dedicated to the memory of all those aid workers who have lost their lives while bringing assistance to others, and to increase awareness of relief activities worldwide. Todays meeting is demonstrative of the international communitys commitment to act, an opportunity to step forward and show to the people and the Government of Pakistan that we are ready and willing to assist them in every possible way, said the President of the Assembly, Ali Treki. He called on Member States to donate generously in the face of the unprecedented humanitarian disaste unfolding in Pakistan. This is an extraordinary emergency situation. It requires an extraordinary response, he stated. The floods, which began late last month in the wake of particularly heavy monsoon rains and which have destroyed homes, farmland and major infrastructure in large parts of the country, have claimed more than 1,200 lives. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who came to sensitize the international community about the magnitude of the problems created by the floods, said that what was being confronted in Pakistan today was a natural calamity of unprecedented proportions. He added, These are the worst monsoon floods in living memory. According to United Nations reports, the present humanitarian crisis was larger than the combined effects of the 2005 tsunami and the 2005 earthquake. Pakistanis, he said, were a resilient people. They were no strangers to challenges and difficulties. Theirs was a nation that suffered the ravages of the 2005 earthquake and bravely bore the loss of 80,000 brethren. Pakistan was the nation that braced, with fortitude, the loss of thousands of its men, women and children to suicide attacks. Pakistanis were the people to whom the international community looked as a bulwark against terrorism and extremism. Pakistan is the nation, which now looks towards the international community to show a similar determination and humanity in its hour of need, the foreign minister said. The situation was critical and alarming, and he said he stood before the Assembly as the voice of 20 million Pakistanis devastated by the floods who had lost their homes and hearths, their kith and kin, their lands and their crops, their lives and their livelihoods. One in ten Pakistanis has been rendered destitute. Twenty per cent of the countrys land was submerged in water. The country was primarily an agrarian economy, with 70 per cent of its population employed in the agriculture sector, he said, adding that was where it had been hit the most. More than 17 million acres of agricultural land had been submerged. Standing crops, worth billions of dollars, had been destroyed. The critical sector of livestock had been equally devastated. More than 3.5 million children were at high risk of deadly water-borne diseases. Schools would not be opening soon after summer vacations, as they were providing shelter to flood survivors. In Punjab, Qureshi continued, almost 1 million acres of cotton growing area was affected, and crops worth $1 billion had been destroyed. In the South, standing crops in the Sindh province worth $1.2 billion, over an area of 100,000 acres, faced complete destruction. In the North, more than 325,000 acres of land were submerged, and crops worth $500 million had been destroyed in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province. In Balochistan, villages and towns were being inundated as he spoke. More than 70 per cent of the roads and bridges in the flood stricken areas had been destroyed, with none remaining intact in the Swat valley. Additionally, more than 1 million tons of wheat stores in warehouses had been swept away. Unfortunately, he said, those were only initial estimates, as the situation was still evolving. In fact, it was expected to worsen as the second and third wave of floods inundated more lands and uprooted more people. The numbers would surely go up as the waters receded and the affected areas became accessible. The aftermath of the floods in the medium to long term would pose more daunting challenges. Reconstruction and rehabilitation costs would be huge. But the immediate challenge was to meet the food, health and clean drinking water needs of the millions of displaced and to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure. The difficulties did not end there, he said, pointing to the severe stress to be felt by the urban infrastructure as millions of people migrated to bigger cities in search of shelter and jobs. Another serious problem, with long-term socio-economic implications, was the loss of land and potential decline in the arability of flood-affected lands. The food security of the sixth most populous country in the world was at risk. The possible threats of food riots and related violence could not be ruled out. He said his Government had mobilized all its national resources to provide rescue and relief. Hundreds of thousands had been rescued and evacuated from riverine areas. Provision of food, shelter, clean drinking water and prevention of water-borne diseases and epidemics remained the top priorities. The entire nation stood united and determined to overcome that challenge. The people of Pakistan had opened up their hearts and hearths to their brothers and sisters. The country was also determined to turn around the economy destroyed in the floods, and had decided to set up an independent national entity to mobilize maximum domestic resources and to ensure their effective and transparent use. That entity would comprise persons of integrity, who would supervise the collection, management and distribution of relief funds among the flood-affected people. The commitment and resolve notwithstanding, the scale of the challenge is colossal, far too big for any developing country to handle alone, he stressed, adding his hope that the international community would come forward in all earnestness. We trust that we shall be provided with the much-needed support to augment our national relief and rescue efforts. The people of Pakistan greatly appreciated the launch of the $459 million Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan by the United Nations, and Pakistan had requested the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to assist the Government in carrying out a comprehensive damage needs assessment. The disaster had hit hard at a time, and in areas, where Pakistan was in the midst of fighting a war against extremists and terrorists, he said. The people of Pakistan had stood by their brave security forces in that fight, but those successes had come at a heavy price. More than 10,000 innocent civilians had fallen victim to terrorism, and more than 2,500 Pakistani soldiers had given their lives. The material losses exceeded $43 billion. He said that the gains made against the terrorists were substantial, yet Pakistan remained exposed. The peace and relative calm achieved as a result of the democratic Governments relentless efforts were still fragile and needed to be consolidated. The massive upheaval caused by the floods and the economic losses suffered by the millions of Pakistanis must be addressed urgently. If we fail, it could undermine the hard-won gains made by the Government in our difficult and painful war against terrorism, he warned, adding, We cannot allow this catastrophe to become an opportunity for the terrorists. In closing, Qureshi said that climate change had become a reality for 170 million Pakistanis. The present situation reconfirmed the nations extreme vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change, which also complicated the reconstruction and rehabilitation scenario in Pakistan. Nature had made a graphic endorsement to strengthen the case for a fair and equitable outcome from the ongoing United Nations Framework Convention negotiations. The solidarity he witnessed here today was very reassuring. He wished to return to Islamabad with a clear message that the people of Pakistan were not alone in this hour of trial and that the international community stood ready to support and assist them. Earlier, the top UN relief official in Pakistan warned that if humanitarian assistance for clean water, food, shelter and health care is not provided soon enough, there could be a second wave of deaths caused by waterborne diseases. The death toll in this disaster has miraculously been far lower than in some other major recent natural disasters and we wish to keep it that way, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Mogwanja told reporters in New York, speaking from Pakistan. The World Health Organization (WHO) also urged greater donor support for health projects in Pakistan, where more than 200 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed, adding that reports from the field already indicate a significant rise in the number of cases of acute watery diarrhoea, skin infections and malaria. It is crucial that all humanitarian health providers, local and national, coordinate their relief efforts closely to save lives, reduce suffering and deliver the most effective response, said WHOs Representative in Pakistan, Guido Sabatinelli. Mogwanja noted that a food crisis is also possible given that thousands of hectares of crops which were due to be harvested in the next four weeks in most parts of the country have now been destroyed. It is therefore vital for food aid to reach those affected as soon as possible. In the longer-term, he added, it will be necessary to assist in rebuilding livelihoods as well as public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, telecommunications, power lines and irrigation canals. The people of Pakistan are depending on the people of the world, he stressed. During a meeting with the Secretary-General ahead of the Assembly session, Qureshi welcomed the leadership and commitment of the UN in the response to the disaster. He and Ban also discussed further steps and meetings over the coming months to bolster the relief and recovery efforts.