The United Nations Children's Fund says last week's U.N. $460 million appeal for Pakistan is outdated because the numbers of people needing emergency assistance has grown considerably. In addition, the U.N. now says more than 4 million people in Pakistan have been left homeless by the floods.
UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, Daniel Toole, has just completed a trip across flooded areas in Pakistan to evaluate the magnitude of the problems and the needs.
He says in the 15 years in which he has been dealing with emergencies, he has never seen one this large. He says the scale and scope of the disaster defies belief.
In a telephone briefing from Punjab, Toole tells correspondents in Geneva he has seen whole villages that have disappeared under the water. He says the flooding has caused extensive and widespread destruction of houses, schools, health facilities and other infrastructure.
The government of Pakistan says about 20 million people are affected by the disaster and Toole says the United Nations estimates at least 7 million are severely affected.
"Those are people who have basically lost everything. I have met hundreds of them who have arrived in camps with only the clothes they are wearing," said UNICEF Regional Director Toole. "They do not have food. They do not have water. They do not have clothes. They do not have shelter. And, so those are the most severely affected. Others will have moved to the side of the river and so they are still on high ground. And, they may have moved with some of their belongings, some of their food."
Toole says concern is growing over the outbreak of waterborne diseases. He says the World Health Organization fears 3.5 million children are at particular risk of getting acute watery diarrhea and other diseases.
He warns the sweltering heat and stagnant waters are perfect conditions for malaria, a major killer of children.
He says the physical condition of children he met is stable, but not good. He says they are traumatized by the events. At the same time, he says he has seen a few rays of hope among children who have been able to go back to school and participate in playgroups.
Toole says food, water and medical care are essential for survival. But, education is vital for the recovery of children and for their parents.
He says going to school provides people with a sense of normality, with a sense that things will get better. He says education is a way of protecting children, especially girls.
"It is also direct protection because what we know is in emergencies there is greater threat of early marriage, because parents have lost all of their belongings and they look desperately for ways to cope," explained Toole. "It is a direct period of threats of kidnapping and abduction and trafficking of children. And that is how we have started to work with camps and other about those dangers and the need to protect children. And, when children are in school, they are protected."
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Toole says UNICEF is doing its best to provide safe water and sanitation, health care and education for millions of flood victims. But, these activities cost a lot of money and will cost more as the needs increase.
He says so far, UNICEF has received $8 million in cash plus $35 million in pledges. He appeals to donors to urgently come up with the cash because UNICEF cannot pay for food, water, health care and other essential needs with pledges.