The United Nations is appealing for 38 million dollars to assist hundreds of thousands of people in southwest Pakistan struggling to survive widespread flooding. This follows a devastating cyclone that hit the region late last month. The emergency appeal, which was launched at a special meeting with donor countries in Geneva Wednesday, covers needs over the next three months. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA.

Pakistan's southern Baluchistan and Sindh provinces are used to heavy rains during the annual monsoon season. But, this year, the floods are much worse than normal. The United Nations estimates more than 2.5 million people are affected. It says up to 400 people are dead and more are missing. It reports that nearly 400,000 people are homeless.

U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, says the biggest slice of the $38 million appeal will go toward restoring peoples' livelihoods as quickly as possible. That means bringing the devastated agricultural sector back to normal.

The next biggest need is for shelter. He says hundreds of thousands of homeless people are living with friends or relatives. Many are living in school buildings or in makeshift roadside shelters. He says this is particularly unpleasant, as people are forced to endure scorching heat and dust storms.

Holmes says health is another important consideration.

"So far, we do not have any reports of outbreaks of communicable diseases, but the risk is obviously very high given the conditions of hygiene in the affected areas and the monsoon season very high heat and humidity conditions," he said. "So, we are doing our best to make sure that does not happen and to be ready for any outbreaks that there might be. And, the other major item is water and sanitation. Many water sources have been destroyed or very badly affected. There is a need to provide immediately fresh water, but also a need to restore and repair the water sources as fast as possible."

As always in emergency situations, Holmes says women and children are the most vulnerable and they will need special care. He warns the situation of the flood victims will deteriorate further unless the international community acts quickly.

"The conditions are pretty desperate for people, particularly in these early stages. And, psychologically, I think people are very, very devastated," added Holmes. "Flooding is not entirely unknown in the area, obviously, but these are much worse than they have seen before. Entire villages disappearing underneath the mud essentially in some places. So, this is very devastating and the recovery will be extremely tricky."

Although the waters are receding, weather forecasters predict more heavy rainfall in the next two months. The pressure on dams and levies is very strong. Aid officials are afraid extra flooding will occur as dams break.