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UN Finds Extensive Destruction in Pakistan's Flood-Stricken Sindh Province

Pakistani men wade through floodwaters in Sujawal in southern Sindh province, Pakistan, 30 Aug 2010.
Pakistani men wade through floodwaters in Sujawal in southern Sindh province, Pakistan, 30 Aug 2010.

A recent UNICEF mission to Pakistan's southern Sindh province shows near total destruction of homes, food, schools and livelihoods. The U.N. children's fund says malnutrition levels among children are very high and there is a potential of epidemics in the flood-stricken area.

The floods have stopped and a majority of those who fled Sindh province is returning home. But, the people are returning to a devastated area, reports UNICEF, one that will require a lot of time and money to rehabilitate.

A recent assessment by the Pakistani government, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, estimates overall flood recovery and reconstruction could cost up to $11 billion. The national assessment finds more than five percent of health facilities and more than six percent of education institutions are completely destroyed or partially damaged.

UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says nearly 300 schools in Sindh province still are being used for shelter, housing over 40,000 people. She says stagnant floodwaters continue to block some people from returning home. They also increase the risks of water-borne diseases.

"The national Disease Early Warning System has identified 26 alerts for potential epidemics between 5 and 18 November," says Mercado. "These include 7 suspected measles cases, five cases of Acute Watery Diarrhea, and two cases of Neonatal Tetanus. There also have been 119 cases of polio reported in 2010 while the total number of polio cases in 2009 was 89 for the entire year."

Mercado says 40 percent of children in the country were underweight before the floods, and she adds, it is likely that figure is now higher.

Another unfortunate consequence of the flooding, she says, is the spiraling cost of food. This will make it difficult for people to get the nourishment they need to remain healthy, she says.

"The needs assessment has shown that the floods have contributed to the highest monthly inflation rate in over two years, which will impact on the most vulnerable. Clearly, this will have an impact on food security. In terms of the malnutrition response, there were capacity gaps in the beginning in terms of treating acute malnutrition. These are being addressed, but the gaps are huge and they will continue to remain huge for the months to come," Mercado says.

UNICEF says one-third of its $251-million appeal for flood relief is unfunded. Mercado warns life-saving programs will have to be cut if the agency does not receive this money.

She notes UNICEF provides almost 2.8 million people with clean drinking water every day, along with vital sanitation and hygiene facilities. And she says the agency has provided over 10 million vaccines and set up hundreds of treatment centers for malnourished children and women.

She says fewer people will receive these and other services if the international community does not respond to its appeal.