The United Nations is rapidly scaling up its relief operation in Pakistan amid fears the situation could further deteriorate as more rains are predicted in the coming month.
Torrential monsoon rains and floods in Pakistan have killed more than 1,200 people, and affected upwards of 33 million, rendering millions homeless, and causing widespread destruction and damage to homes and infrastructure.
Forecasts of more rain in the coming weeks are spurring aid agencies to action. The U.N. refugee agency reports the first three of nine scheduled flights carrying sleeping mats, kitchen sets, tarpaulins and other supplies arrived Monday in Pakistan. Six more flights are scheduled to leave Dubai on Wednesday and Thursday.
The UNHCR's director for Asia and the Pacific, Indrika Ratwatte, said tents and other core relief items will be trucked into Pakistan from Uzbekistan. An initial 50,000 households in the worst flood-hit region are prioritized for aid, he said, adding that it is urgent to reach communities "in situ," or close to their homes.
"They do not want to go away from their areas because that is where they have whatever is left," he said. "The food insecurity is going to be huge because the crops are devastated obviously, and the little they had in terms of homestead. Livestock is also destroyed. So, really, getting the assistance in situ right now, ramping it up is what is needed."
Ratwatte said the UNHCR is dispatching all existing humanitarian stocks in the country to help some 420,000 of the hardest-hit Afghan refugees and the Pakistani communities hosting them. An estimated 1.3 million Afghan refugees currently are registered in the country.
The World Health Organization, for its part, has delivered $1.5 million in essential medicines, water purification kits, tanks, tents, and other emergency supplies. WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said there is an urgent need to scale up disease surveillance, restore damaged health facilities, and provide mental health and psychosocial support to affected communities.
"As the situation is still expected to worsen because of floods that are persistent in many parts and especially for the most vulnerable, we are trying to respond to the current health impact of the floods while, at the same time, scaling up preparedness for additional health risks as we expect more monsoon rains in coming months," Jasarevic said.
The WHO said the floods have damaged more than 1,000 health facilities and destroyed more than 430. That, it said, limits access to health facilities, essential medicine, and medical equipment, as well as treatment for diseases, injuries and trauma.