UNICEF responds as floods affect over 3 million in north-western Pakistan
NEW YORK, USA, 2 August 2010 – More than 1,400 people are dead and more than a million children are in need of emergency assistance after the worst floods to hit Pakistan since 1929 devastated large parts of the country in recent days.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, located in the mountains of north-western Pakistan, is the province worst affected by the floods. Many of the province’s estimated 3.5 million residents lost their crops and saw their homes flooded, damaged or destroyed.
Communication networks in many areas remain down or disrupted, and ground access is limited because bridges, highways and roads have been blocked or destroyed by the floods.
“There are crucial needs for food and safe drinking water,” said UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Martin Mogwanja. “Potential disease outbreaks among survivors are a major concern.”
Mr. Mogwanja has just returned from visits to two flood-affected agricultural districts where UNICEF is working to prevent the spread of deadly diarrhoeal diseases in young children.
Providing safe water to the hundreds of thousands of people whose water supply has been polluted or damaged by the floods is now essential. UNICEF is working with the Pakistani authorities to repair wells and drinking water sources as quickly as possible – and to provide chlorine tablets so that water can be treated before it is consumed.
A firsthand view
On an aerial tour of the region, Mr. Mogwanja was able to see firsthand how communities were affected by the floods.
“Houses were literally swimming in the midst of muddy water,” he said. “Crops had been washed away or destroyed, trees were pushed down by the strength of the water, and walls of buildings had crumbled and fallen.”
During his tour of the flood zone, Mr. Mogwanja also stopped for ground visits in two districts where survivors recounted having to climb trees or go to rooftops to save their own lives. He also met people whose relatives had perished in the floods and who were now struggling to keep their loved ones’ bodies dry for proper burials once the floodwaters recede.
“It’s very difficult to tell how long the recovery effort will take,” said Mr. Mogwanja. He estimated that at least three to six months of work will be needed to restore just the basic facilities that have been destroyed.
Fears of renewed flooding
The floodwaters are beginning to recede in some parts of the affected provinces. However, new storm systems are moving into the area and experts fear renewed flooding.
“There’s going to be great needs in terms of water, shelter and assuring the health care of the population because of water-borne diseases,” said Mr. Mogwanja.
Food security will also present a challenge, he noted, adding. “Much of the food stocks have been lost.”