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Trucks and cars cross through a flooded highway in Muzaffargrah, in central Pakistan on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010. (Khalid Tanveer/Khalid Tanveer/The Associated Press)
Trucks and cars cross through a flooded highway in Muzaffargrah, in central Pakistan on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010. (Khalid Tanveer/Khalid Tanveer/The Associated Press)

Harper government will match Pakistan flood donations Add to ...

The federal government moved Sunday to kick-start giving for Pakistan flood relief by offering to match private donations, dollar for dollar.

Donations for flood aid made between Aug. 2 and Sept. 12 will be matched by federal money with no upper limit, Government House leader John Baird said.

The government has set up the Pakistan Floods Relief Fund to handle the aid, and it will be administered through the Canadian International Development Agency.

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A woman displaced by floods in Pakistan carries her son at a health centre in Muzaffargarh on Aug. 21.

"For every eligible donation by individual Canadians to Canadian registered charities and earmarked for efforts to assist Pakistan relief efforts, Canada will contribute an equivalent amount to the Pakistan Floods Relief Fund," Mr. Baird told a morning news conference.

"The equivalent contribution will support continuing humanitarian assistance, early recovery and, just as importantly, reconstruction efforts in Pakistan."

The matching funds will be on top of the $33-million already pledged by Canada.

Similar programs helped spur donations for last winter's Haitian earthquake and the 2004 tsunami and the federal government had been criticized by some, including the opposition Liberals, for not moving faster to promise matching funds.

"To those who say we're not doing enough, we're the fifth largest contributor in the world," Mr. Baird said.

He also said that the tsunami and the quake unfolded differently.

"In the case of Haiti, for example, you had upwards of 200,000, a quarter of a million people, killed in less than a minute some three hours from Canada. Obviously the flooding has been incredibly different. It's gotten progressively worse."

The floods began in late July in the northwest of the country after exceptionally heavy monsoon rains. Swollen rivers then swamped other areas.

About a fifth of the country is affected with an estimated six million people left homeless and 20 million affected overall.

There are growing fears that waterborne disease, such as cholera could become epidemic.

The United Nations asked the international community for $460-million in initial aid, but Pakistan's foreign minister says the world has given or promised more than $800-million.

"The total commitments and pledges that Pakistan has got so far are $815.58 million," he told reporters in Islamabad. "In these circumstances, when the West and Europe and America are going through a recession ... this kind of solidarity for Pakistan, I think, is very encouraging."

Mr. Baird said the plight of people forced to flee the rising waters has touched Canadians and he expects growing donations.

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