UNICEF scales up life-saving operations to reach displaced families in southern Pakistan
By A. Sami Malik
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 19 September 2011 - For the second time in a year, Pakistan has been hit by severe flooding caused by the monsoon rains. With the scars of the 2010 floods hardly faded and the area residents still struggling to get their lives back to normal, heavy rains have caused widespread destruction in the southern province of Sindh.
As the downpour continues, about 5.4 million people have already been affected - half of which are children. Many more have remained, hoping for the rains to stop. With their houses and villages engulfed by the filthy flood water, hundreds of thousands of people face starvation and disease.
Nine months pregnant, Hajra, 40, had been living in a low income colony in Mirpur Khas city, but has since moved to a safer location due to the flooding.
Children most vulnerablePersistent rains have caused the Indus River - the largest in the country - to swell. As it passes through the affected districts in Sindh, there is a fear of it overflowing and inundating large areas on both banks. This could result in a colossal loss of life and property.
Many of those displaced have been forced to camp out in the open - either on the highways or on embankments of water bodies. Shelter is their immediate need. A few of the lucky ones have tents, while the rest must wait in despair. Families solemnly carry their handful of meagre belongings as they walk through the murky ponds of infested water in an attempt to get to safer locations.
As is the case in any such emergency, children are the most vulnerable. They outnumber adults and are more susceptible to the hazards brought by floods. Scarcity of food, clean water, hygiene, sanitation and medical services have increased the risk for children to fall prey to waterborne diseases.
UNICEF provides supportDue to harsh living conditions, people are forced to use dirty water for washing and at times even drinking. They have no option but to defecate in the open. Vast areas covered with feculent water and the corpses of dead animals result in an abundance of flies and mosquitos.
As part of the joint humanitarian response to the emergency, UNICEF has started its life-saving operations in the worst hit areas of Sindh. It is reaching children with safe drinking water and vaccinations and providing over 100,000 litres of water to nearly 30,000 people every day. It is also distributing bed nets, medicines and new borne kits. Over the next few weeks as it scales up its operations, education, hygiene and protection will be provided to hundreds of thousands in need.