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UN Official Describes Post-Flooding in Baluchistan as 'Disgusting'

  • Sean Maroney

One senior U.N. official says the international community cannot overlook millions of people still affected by Pakistan's flooding, even as the floodwaters recede from their homes.

The representative to Pakistan for the U.N. Refugee Agency, Mengesha Kebede, spoke in Islamabad after visiting spontaneous settlements for flood victims around Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. He said what he saw in the province was shocking.

"I have worked in humanitarian situations globally. I have worked in refugee camps in Africa during emergencies, he said. "To be honest with you, I have not seen such a disgusting situation as I saw in Baluchistan."

He said the flooding has affected close to two million people in Baluchistan. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates about 600,000 people are displaced from southern Sindh province, while at least 400,000 others are from within Baluchistan. The United Nations estimates the flooding has affected nearly 20 million people throughout Pakistan.

Kebede said he has urged his fellow U.N. aid agencies to strengthen their response in Baluchistan province to avoid what he called a "major humanitarian disaster." He added they need to re-examine their responses to providing sanitation, shelter, food and health care.

Kebede also blamed the media for the inadequate humanitarian response in Baluchistan.

"Unfortunately, I am also critical of the media." he said. "The media tends to focus on the flow of the River Indus. Even though the floods have gone from some of these locations, the humanitarian tragedy and impact remains."

He said he believes the media are focusing too much on the flow of the water as it heads south, receding from the initially flooded areas, such as Baluchistan, and inundating Sindh province by the sea.

The former secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Mazhar Abbas, said separatist militants in Baluchistan have made it difficult for journalists to operate there.

"There have been incidents of kidnapping; detentions are routine," Abbas said. "Journalists have gone there, but they have also been advised by the security agencies not to travel during the night or in the evening."

He added Pakistani security forces are more likely to travel with journalists and aid agencies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which consistently sees Taliban militant violence, than in Baluchistan.

Separatist militants there have been fighting a low-intensity insurgency for control of the province's gas and other resources.

Early last year, the U.N. refugee agency was forced to scale down its humanitarian activities in Baluchistan after separatists kidnapped the agency's provincial head, American John Solecki, holding him 61 days for ransom.

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