Schooling interrupted, as flood-affected children in Pakistan wait for waters to recede
By Zeeshan Suhail
Jacobabad district, Pakistan, October 2012 – Reshma is a cheerful 10-year-old girl, who makes beautiful dolls in her free time. Studying in the first grade, she has hopes and aspirations for her future. Her primary desire, though, is to have her destroyed home reconstructed. She lives in Chandran, a village in Jacobabad district, Sindh, which was badly affected by the recent floods. Her father is a labourer and has nine other children to feed, clothe and educate. Work is scarce, and her family had just barely recovered from the back-to-back monsoon floods of 2010 and 2011 when they were affected once more by new flash flooding from the 2012 monsoon rains.
The rain fell continuously for several days in early September, which inundated many areas of southern Punjab, northern Sindh and northern Balochistan. The National Disaster Management Authority puts the number of affected people at 4.9 million – with satellite imagery showing that large areas of 15 districts were flooded. More than 1.1 million acres of crops have been affected and more than 400,000 houses swept away or badly damaged. Critically, in the aftermath of flood emergencies such as this one, children become disproportionately susceptible to diseases and malnutrition and many are unable to attend school.
Reshma’s school was a quick walk from her home, but she hasn’t been able to attend for many weeks. The small, two-room school building quickly filled up with household items as village residents rushed to save whatever they could from the rising water. In early September 2012, the non-stop downpours deluged a community that was just ready to harvest what looked like a bountiful rice crop. Weeks later, the land is still inundated with flood water. The rice itself will be useless, but the grassy stems can be chopped off to use as fodder for hungry livestock. If the now stagnant water doesn’t recede quickly, the wheat crop (due to be planted in the winter) will suffer, leading to a further loss of potential livelihood.
In response to the flood emergency, UNICEF and its partners are providing safe drinking water to more than 250,000 flood-affected people in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan. If funding permits, UNICEF, government and partners plan to provide emergency education services to 88,000 children by establishing 604 temporary learning centres. Fifteen are already up and running, benefitting more than 2,000 children. Children in these centres will be mainstreamed back into regular schools, whether as continuing or new students.
The protection cluster, including UNICEF and Save the Children, has established 18 protective spaces, benefitting more than 2,000 children and women.
“The impact of devastating flooding in Pakistan over the past three years has been particularly severe for millions of children,” said Mr Oscar Butragueño, Emergency Coordinator for UNICEF Pakistan. “Recurrent natural disasters affect Pakistan’s ability to achieve development goals. This is why UNICEF not only reaches out to flood-affected children and their families in the country’s most disadvantaged areas, but we are committed to mitigating the impact of disasters on children and increasing community resilience by integrating disaster risk reduction into all of our work.”
To continue life-saving activities in response to the 2012 monsoon floods, UNICEF urgently needs USD15.4 million to provide flood-affected communities with timely and adequate assistance through the next three months.