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UN Estimates More Than 4 Million People Affected By Pakistan Floods

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan estimates more than four million people in the country are affected by devastating floods and more than have been killed.

Speaking from Islamabad, U.N. officials say aid agencies are facing a disaster of major proportions. Many areas remain inaccessible a week after monsoon rains caused the Indus River to swell, flooding several heavily populated provinces in northwest Pakistan.

Chief of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance in Pakistan, Manuel Bessler, said the floods have washed roads away and destroyed bridges, leaving many areas accessible only by helicopter.

"This, of course, slows down the whole operation. It makes it complicated and lengthy. And, that is the main explanation also why we see the frustration and anger, which is absolutely understandable by the fact that a population who feel abandoned and is not taken care of, " Bessler said.

The United Nations reports about 1.5 million people in the Khyber-Pakhtunkwa Province have been affected by varying degrees by the flooding. Many people have lost everything: their homes, livestock and crops. At the same, the U.N. says a huge body of water has been moving south, affecting millions more in Punjab and Sind Provinces.

Bessler said emergency search and rescue missions and relief operations are ongoing. The main needs are food, safe drinking water, shelter and medicine.

"We have a lot of polluted water, we have heat, we have civilians exposed to these elements, which is the ideal environment for the spread of waterborne diseases," Bessler said. "That is why we have to be fast. We have to reach out to all areas, to all isolated pockets of people, which, obviously, is the main challenge."

The World Health Organization said it is sending medical relief supplies to flood victims. WHO officials fear outbreaks of cholera, typhoid fever, shegellosis and other diarrheal diseases.

The U.N. food agency, the World Food Program, said it has provided rations for nearly 155,000 people since it began food distributions on Sunday to some of the worst affected areas. But the agency said an estimated 1.8-million people still need food assistance.