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Emergency Response Human Interest Stories

Country Programme Human Interest Stories

2008 Floods in Pakistan

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Measles Vaccination and Sanitation Facilities Reach Flood-Affected Communities in Southwest Pakistan.

© UNICEF/PAKA001/Pasha
Flood-affected girl being vaccinated against measles in Khurmastan village.

By Sandra Bisin

Khurmastan, Khuzdar district, Balochistan, 27 July 2007 – It is 11 am in the village of Khurmastan and the small medical tent is one of the only places that offer a cool respite from the sun’s beating rays and hot winds. A group of ten women and their children are holding their breath as the doctor injects a dose of vaccine in a little girl’s arm. The doctor gently encourages her and she gives a brave smile trying not to look at the needle.

“My neighbours told me a vaccination team was coming to our village. I know measles is a killer disease. This is why I decided to bring my children”, says Mrs. Hajra, who came with her two sons.

Khuzdar is one of the seven districts in Balochistan where UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and other partners are supporting the government to conduct a measles campaign following the floods that came in the wake of cyclone Yemyin, which left scores of people homeless and killed over 300 persons, in late June, in southwest Pakistan.

“Measles is a major killer of children, especially in times of emergency. UNICEF and its partners have planned to vaccinate 124,000 children aged from nine months to 15 years in flood-affected areas. So far, over 70,000 children have been vaccinated”, explains Dr. Amjad, a UNICEF Health officer. As part of the measles campaign in Balochistan, vitamin A capsules are also being provided to children.

“My neighbours told me a vaccination team was coming to our village. I know measles is a killer disease. This is why I decided to bring my children”, says Mrs. Hajra, who came with her two sons.

The village of Khurmastan is very much like an oasis surrounded by a vast and arid swathe of land. Most of the people living in the valley are farmers cultivating vegetable, fruit, pulses and wheat. The community normally sees very little rain. The torrential rains that started on 24 June caught most of the population unawares and paid a heavy toll on livelihoods.

© UNICEF/PAKA002/Pasha
Boy collecting water from a UNICEF water tank is Khurmastan village.

Mrs Hano, a 30-year-old and mother of six children, gives a riveting account of the night the floods hit her village. “It was around 9 pm. We had just had dinner and children were already in bed”, says. “We heard a strange noise, like water roaring. But we could not believe it. Then the village elders came shouting: “Water is coming! Wake up!”. We only had time to think of two things: grab our children and the Holy Quran. I am sure it saved us. As 50 of us were sitting on a nearby hill, we saw water flowing with full intensity and covering all houses. In a single night, we lost everything.”

Fortunately, nobody died in Mrs Hano’s village. But all mud-type homes were washed away in a matter of a few seconds.

A few metres away from the medical tent, a boy is collecting water from a UNICEF tank set by the agency’s partners in the area in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

“When we reached the village for the first time after the floods, villagers told us that all water and sanitation facilities had all been destroyed. We first distributed water purification tablets to prevent outbreaks of water-borne diseases. And a week later we established three UNICEF water tanks as well as seven latrines and sensitised communities on good hygiene practices”, says Mr. Ghulam Ali Baloch from Balochistan Rural Support Programme, a key UNICEF partner in the area.

Throughout the region, UNICEF and other organizations are helping flood-affected children and their families rebuild their lives.

UNICEF and its partners are currently providing water to 125,000 people in Balochistan and Sindh, the two provinces affected by the floods. So far, UNICEF has distributed 36,000 jerry cans and buckets, 700,000 water purification sachets, 1.4 million water purification tablets, 60,000 bars of soap, 89 water bladders and tanks to the people affected by the floods. UNICEF has also restored 55 water supply schemes and is currently rehabilitating another 50 water supply schemes. 3,000 latrine slabs have also been set up.
 
On 18 July, the United Nations launched a Flash Appeal worth US $38 million dollars to provide assistance to flood survivors. UNICEF’s share of the Flash Appeal is US $6.3 million dollars.  The Australian government announced on 23 July that it would contribute US$ 847,000 to UNICEF for immediate water supply and sanitation needs. The Belgian government also announced it would contribute nearly US$ 548,000 to UNICEF water and sanitation activities in flood-affected areas. UNICEF still needs $US4.7 million dollars to finance key activities to guarantee the protection of vulnerable children and women, ensure that children continue their education, and support the provision of essential health services, medicines, supplies and equipment.

 

 

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