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Cyclone floods in Pakistan leave thousands displaced and desperate

UNICEF Image: Pakistan, floods
© AP Photo/Adil
Flood survivors wait for relief at a shelter after a heavy storm and rainfall in Pakistan’s Turbat District.

By Amy Bennett

NEW YORK, USA, 3 July 2007 – Wading through waist-high water, families in Pakistan’s Sindh and Balochistan Provinces are looking for remnants of their homes and belongings – and sometimes for their lost loved ones.

According to official estimates, more than 1.5 million people have been affected by floods since Cyclone Yemyin struck the region last week. Thousands fled to higher ground during the flooding, perching atop mosques and in trees to avoid being swept away.

An estimated 250,000 people have lost their homes in 14 of Balochistan's 29 districts. The provincial government has confirmed 100 deaths and 200 missing, though the unofficial death toll exceeds 200. In Sindh, six districts are affected.

The cyclone did extensive damage in the port city of Karachi as well, leaving an additional 200 or more dead and thousands without water and electricity.

Lack of access causes concern

Given poor communications and the remote location of many affected areas, Cyclone Yemyin’s destruction cannot yet be fully tallied. But witnesses report scenes of devastation, with crops, livestock, roads and bridges destroyed. There are also reports of people still stranded in outlying areas of Balochistan, waiting to be rescued.

“Access to the flood-affected population and areas is a major problem, since highways and other infrastructure have been damaged by the flooding rivers,” said UNICEF Deputy Director of Emergency Programmes Kari Egge. “Support to the victims has been limited to airlifts at the moment, and so far has been mainly handled by the Pakistani authorities.”

In the district of Turbat, one of the worst-affected areas, relief efforts are hampered and civilians urgently need help. Riots have broken out there among flood victims desperate for aid. Like many other districts, Turbat also has seen its water supplies contaminated and electricity disrupted.

“In addition to the psychological impact such events have on all children, we are strongly concerned about the nutrtional status and high levels of acute and severe malnutrition, especially among children under five,” said Ms. Egge, adding that the affected provinces already have high malnutrition rates. She also expressed concern that children’s lives will be at further risk if the rains and floods continue and there are outbreaks of waterborne diseases exacerbated by a lack of safe drinking water.

UNICEF Image: Pakistan, floods
© Reuters/Raza
Residents make their way through a flooded street after heavy rain in Lahore, one of many areas of Pakistan affected by post-cyclone flooding.

UN and UNICEF respond

As the UN mobilizes its resources in response to the Pakistan flood crisis, UNICEF has been tasked to lead several teams focusing on water and sanitation, education, child protection and communication, and to assist with the health response.

By Saturday, 30 June, in response to initial requests from the authorities in Balochistan, UNICEF had already delivered the following urgently needed relief supplies:

  • 740,000 water-purification tablets
  • 33,600 blankets
  • 4,000 jerry cans
  • 12 tents
  • 50 metric tonnes of Unimix (a nutritious fortified flour)
  • Two new emergency health kits designed to provide for the immediate health needs of 20,000 people for three months
  • 20 water bladders
  • 56,000 packs of soap
  • 12 bales of cloth for water filtration
  • 2,000 fibreglass toilet slabs.

In addition, the provincial government received support for local procurement of medicines and for trucking safe water to flood-affected communities.

Sindh and Balochistan Provinces were not the only areas affected by Cyclone Yemyin. Storms and floods spread havoc over large parts of South Asia during the past week – including India, Afghanistan and other parts of Pakistan – creating an even more critical need for aid from UNICEF and other international humanitarian agencies on the ground.

“UNICEF will continue to provide support to the victims in the areas of water and sanitation, child protection, education, nutrition and health,” said Ms. Egge. “We sincerely hope that the rains will stop in the next few days. The situation would otherwise look bleak for the many thousand children who are homeless and out of reach of immediate lifesaving assistance.”




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