Pakistan Floods 2011: Rains Leaves Thousands Without Help (PHOTOS)
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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's prime minister canceled his attendance at next week's U.N. General Assembly session in New York, saying Friday he needed to coordinate flood relief efforts at home.
Monsoon rains have flooded large parts of the southern Sindh province over the last six weeks, leaving more than 200,000 people homeless. Pakistan's leaders came under criticism last year for failing to deal with floods that affected more than a quarter of the country's territory.
Local authorities, the United Nations, and foreign and local aid groups are distributing water, medicine and food, while the army is rescuing people from communities trapped by the waters.
But many thousands have received little or no help and are living in the open under rainy skies or scorching sun.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said he will visit flood affected areas starting Saturday and supervise relief efforts there, according to a statement from his office. Gilani said Pakistan's foreign minister would address the Assembly in his place.
Pakistan is also reeling from violence by Islamist militants.
Police said Friday the death toll from a suicide bombing the previous day on a funeral in northwestern Pakistan had reached 45, after 14 people injured in the blast in Lower Dir region died of their wounds.
The suicide bomber targeted the funeral of a member of a local "lashkar," or anti-Taliban militia. The tribesmen in the northwest have formed several such militias, which have had some success at stopping militant infiltration but are routinely struck by revenge attacks.
Last year's floods affected most areas of the country, including Sindh and prompted a large international relief effort. The U.S. military, keen to show its support to the Pakistani people, flew hundreds of helicopter missions to drop of food and pick up survivors.
Just as international media interest in the story was peaking, President Asif Ali Zardari was filmed arriving at a family-owned chateaux in France by helicopter, adding fuel to a blaze of criticism at home and abroad over the government's response to the disaster.
This year, media coverage of the disaster has been more muted, but the government has come under some criticism.
Gilani recently returned from a trip to Iran, where he met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while Zardari visited London last week for a health checkup.
Associated Press Writer Abdullah Khan contributed to this report from Dir, Pakistan.