Pakistan faces a ‘disaster of unprecedented scale’

News writing timed test.

The brief: You are a journalist for the English service of International news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).  Write a 450-word international news story on the Pakistan floods using a media pack supplied.  The story must adhere to the pyramid structure.  You should choose an angle that you think will have the broadest appeal for a global readership.  You are free to carry out additional internet research but remember you must source your facts and quotes directly. Do not exceed the word count.

Reflection: I didn’t reach the word limit in the time given but wanted to submit something rather than nothing.  (incidentally for someone who has always struggled to keep under word counts I think I might be starting to master writing concisely…!!)

I gained a 2:1 level mark for this piece so for my first timed ‘pressure news writing’ test I was pleased!  I focused on structure and filtering out the key points from the information filled media pack that would have the widest appeal.

By carrying out additional research I tried to relate the size of the affected area to countries that many international audiences would be familiar with – USA and UK.  I used the UN quotes for the authority, local voices to show direct impact of the floods and an aid agency quote to show another perspective and to highlight some of the challenges.

I have incorporated my feedback comments below – the main changes were changing use of present to past tense (something which is different for radio and TV journalism!)


Pakistan faces a ‘disaster of unprecedented scale’

By Catherine Feltham

About a fifth of Pakistan is underwater according to the United Nations (UN) after floods hit the north-western province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday.

With nearly two thirds of the region’s 3.5 million residents being affected UN spokesperson Stacey Winston said: “This is a disaster of unprecedented scale in terms of the number of people and the scale of area affected.”

The affected area is equivalent in size to New England in America or larger than the entire size of England.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami. Its destructive power will accumulate and grow with time…Make no mistake: this is a global disaster, a global challenge. It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times.”

More than 115,000 tents and 77,000 tarpaulins have been distributed to those in need and the district government has established 30 relief camps and 13 tent villages to shelter desperate families.

Aid has been offered to the UN for the disaster and about 70 per cent of the $460 million initially sought has been contributed or pledged so far. The USA has promised $150 million in aid to the relief efforts.

Mohammed Shafridi, a villager from Sindh province told AFP: “We’re doing so much to help the United States in the war on terrorism. Now we’re in crisis and we expect help. Now is the time for them to prove their commitment to us.”

Footage from RT coming out of Pakistan showed people, animals and trees being swept away by the raging torrent of water that continues to cause devastation.

“Water came suddenly and with a lot of force. It was chest high…I think I will have white hair by the time I will manage to rebuild my house. Or maybe I will never be able to,” said Maqsood Amir, a 32-year-old farmer from the Charsadda district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The NGO UNICEF has told Agence France-Presse they are concerned about health and sanitation. “Unfortunately, people are defecating wherever they can…and then they use this very water to drink.”

The charity is currently reaching about two million people with clean water each day.


Word Count: 356



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