By Raabya Amjab
SUKKUR, Pakistan, 20 August 2010 – The extent of the misery and devastation caused by Pakistan’s recent flooding is unprecedented, said UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Daniel Toole after visiting the area this week. The country is facing its worst disaster in more than 30 years.
|VIDEO: 18 August 2010 - UNICEF correspondent Nina Martinek reports on Regional Director Daniel Toole's visit to relief camps in Sukkur, Pakistan.|
“Thousands of villages and towns have been washed away,” said Mr. Toole after touring the submerged districts of Sindh province. “There is a dire need to rapidly upscale the relief efforts by the government of Sindh and aid agencies.”
The magnitude of the catastrophe is the worst he has seen in the last 15 years of his experience, he added.
Encountering the crisis
|A father holds his child outside a relief camp in Sukkur, a city in Pakistan's Sindh province.|
After conducting an aerial survey of the flood-ravaged areas of Sindh province, Mr. Toole addressed a joint news conference alongside UNICEF Representative and United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan Martin Mogwanja, the Director General of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority and the Flood Relief Commissioner. He held additional meetings with the Governor of Sindh province and the Sindh Chief Minister, where participants jointly reviewed the relief efforts and the current funding gaps.
Mr. Toole also visited with families in relief camps in Sindh’s Sukkur city.
After reviewing the organization’s support for women and children in camps across Sukkur, Mr. Toole noted that UNICEF is currently providing clean drinking water and sanitation facilities but that “millions more need the same services."
|UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Daniel Toole visits a relief camp in Sindh province, Pakistan.|
“We urgently need to scale up the distribution of water,” he said. “Otherwise, water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery will spread and begin killing affected populations, especially children, already weak and vulnerable to disease and malnutrition.”
Plans for relief
According to government reports, the emergency has affected some 4 million people in Sindh province alone and up to 20 million across the country.
UNICEF is one of several agencies that have been delivering much needed emergency relief in the flood zone. Teams of aid workers are providing safe drinking water – installing hand water pumps, bladder tanks and sanitation facilities – and distributing hygiene kits and critical medical supplies such as oral rehydration salts. Water purification tablets and vaccines are also reaching those in need, thanks largely to mobile medical teams. UNICEF is also disseminating messages on safe drinking water, hygiene, immunization, breastfeeding and safe motherhood, and is implementing education and child protection activities in the flood zone.
|Displaced women and children gather around a water pump in flood-ravaged Sindh province, Pakistan.|
Mr. Toole visited safe learning and recreational spaces established for children between 3 and 12 years of age in the government-supported relief camps. In these spaces, UNICEF has trained teachers and provided students with reading and writing materials, as well as recreation kits.
“We are here for the long haul,” said Mr. Toole. “It is pertinent that UNICEF and other aid agencies map out the needs and plan up for recovery, rehabilitation and safe return of the affected communities to their places of origin.”
He further urged the international community to turn their commitments and pledges into concrete funds, ensuring that the most vulnerable victims receive the support they urgently need.
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