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Crisis in Flood-Stricken Pakistan Continues

  • Lisa Schlein

Two-year-old Hawal in a relief camp for flood victims in Thatta, some 100 km from Karachi (file photo)

Two-year-old Hawal in a relief camp for flood victims in Thatta, some 100 km from Karachi (file photo)

Six months after Pakistan was struck by devastating floods, United Nations aid agencies report the crisis is far from over. They say millions of people still are in need of humanitarian aid.

The United Nations reports the situation in many parts of Pakistan, especially in the southern province of Sindh, is still dire. Floods have affected around 20 million people and damaged or destroyed around 1.7 million homes.

Six months after the worst floods in recorded history struck Pakistan, the United Nations notes around four million people still are living without temporary or permanent shelter. UN and non-governmental agencies are providing transitional shelters in all the flood-affected and return areas.

As in all situations of crisis, children and women are the most vulnerable. And, a new nutrition survey released Friday by the Sindh Department of Health bears this out.

Speaking on a line from Karachi to journalists in Geneva, the U.N. Children’s Fund Representative in Pakistan, Pascal Villeneuve, says child malnutrition has always been a problem. But, the floods have worsened this situation.

He says the survey shows Sindh province is facing a nutrition crisis. It finds over 23 percent of children aged between six and 59 months in flood-affected areas of Northern Sindh and just over 21 percent in Southern Sindh are acutely malnourished.

“Which means that around one in five children aged between six and 59 months is malnourished," said Villeneuve. "This rate is well above the World Health Organization’s 15 percent emergency threshold level, triggering a humanitarian response. Extensive screening procedures are now in place and emergency feeding centers have already been set up to ensure that malnourished children are properly treated with therapeutic feeding and appropriate health care.”

The United Nations reports most people now have gone back to their homes. But, it notes most have found their houses and communities totally devastated. As a consequence, millions of victims continue to need basic life-saving assistance.

Villeneuve says UNICEF is providing clean water to an unprecedented 3.5 million people every day and sanitation facilities to nearly two million people.

He says UNICEF and its partners are working to immunize more than nine million children against measles and polio. He says around 120,000 malnourished women and children are enrolled in various feeding programs.

“To bring normalcy back to children’s lives and protect them from risks of abuse, neglect and exploitation, we have established 700 child-friendly spaces, serving 200,000 children," he said. "Soon after the floods started, we scaled up our operations to reach the most affected and vulnerable with life-saving relief supplies and recovery services.”

The United Nations says a lot of work lies ahead and that will take a lot of money. Unfortunately, it notes the donor response to its nearly $2 billion appeal to provide aid for up to 14 million people is seriously under-funded. It says just over 56 percent or $1.1 billion has been received.