By Shandana Aurangzeb Durrani
CHARSADDAH DISTRICT, Pakistan, 18 August 2010 – Flood waters have left behind a trail of destruction affecting some 20 million people in Pakistan, according to government estimates. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in the country’s northwest, the floods have affected millions, with women and children representing the vast majority.
|VIDEO: 18 August 2010: UNICEF correspondent Nina Martinek reports on emergency relief efforts in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, NW Pakistan.|
All 24 districts in the province have been affected of which nine, including Charsaddah, have suffered severe damage. Thousands of villages have been flooded, with countless homes and schools destroyed.
‘State of shock’
Bridges and roads have collapsed across the flood zone, hampering relief activities and causing some of the worst-affected districts to remain inaccessible by road. The local government high school in Charsaddah has been converted to a refuge for more than 500 families displaced by the floods.
|Amina, 19, receives a vaccination at a UNICEF-supported health centre in a camp for those displaced in Charsaddah, Pakistan.|
“I have never seen such destruction in my lifetime,” said Fazal Muhammad, a Boy Scouts leader in Charsaddah district. “We are in a state of shock. All of us here have lost everything.”
While his house was destroyed and his family is staying with relatives in another district, Mr. Muhammad added, he has decided to stay in the devastated neighbourhood. “I can’t leave my people – they are desperate for help,” he said.
UNICEF’s top priority now is the provision of nutrition supplies, clean drinking water and sanitation, as well as health services and polio and measles vaccinations to prevent the outbreak of disease.
“Mobile health teams are in the camp,” said Mr. Muhammad, referring to the converted school. His team of Boy Scouts make loud speaker announcements to make sure all the camp’s women and children go to a health post for a check-up and vaccinations.
Nusrat is a mother from the village of Khandar, which was completely destroyed by the floods. Her sister has brought her to see a camp doctor. Nusrat is three months pregnant and in a poor state of mental and physical health.
|Health workers conduct a 'Health and Hygiene' session with mothers staying at a camp in Charsaddah district, Pakistan.|
“She is in a state of shock and severely traumatized,” said Dr. Lubna Hassa, a gynaecologist who is part of the special health team visiting the camp. “She has lost her husband and two sons in the floods.”
“Before we could realize it the house was full of water,” Nusrat recalled. “My husband helped me to take the two younger children out on higher grounds. Buses were waiting to take people out, and he told us to leave immediately and went back to get our two older sons.”
But she has not seen them in almost two weeks, and fears the worst.
Amina, 19, from a nearby village, is four months pregnant. Since taking refuge in the converted school with her family, her son, Tauseef, has become sick with diarrhoea. So she has come to the health centre to seek help.
“The health workers in the camp are telling all the women to take special care of their families, especially children,” said Amina.
Scaling up services
According to District Health Officer Dr. Fazale Akbar, a staggering 80 per cent of the area in Charsaddah district has been affected. “The health needs are immense, and we need the help of international community,” he said.
|Vaccinators at a health centre in Charsaddah, Pakistan immunize a child.|
The provincial health department, with support from humanitarian agencies including UNICEF, have mobilized health teams to provide life-saving health and nutrition services to the families worst affected and most vulnerable to diseases. Cases of water-borne diseases are reportedly on the rise in the affected areas.
Mobile health teams comprising doctors, female health workers and vaccinators are providing check-ups, including ante-natal and post-natal care for pregnant women, essential medicines and vaccinations. They are also disseminating health, nutrition and hygiene messages on prevention of water-borne diseases.
In addition, UNICEF has started blanket distribution of high-energy biscuits, multi-micronutrient sachets and other therapeutic foodstuffs to prevent malnutrition among vulnerable women and children.
Despite these efforts, however, there remains an urgent need to scale up these services as thousands of families are in dire need of similar interventions. A shortfall in supplies is jeopardizing effective aid efforts.
An estimated 6 million people are ‘severely affected’ and will need humanitarian assistance over the coming weeks.
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