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UNICEF Executive Director visits Pakistan's flood-stricken Charsadda district

By Abdul Sami Malik

CHARSADDA DISTRICT, Pakistan, 31 August 2010 – UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake’s two-day visit to Pakistan, which wraps up today, has reflected the unprecedented scale of emergency the country faces, with more than 17 million people affected by floods caused due to exceptionally heavy monsoon rains.

VIDEO: 30 August 2010 - UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on Executive Director Anthony Lake's visit to flood-stricken areas of Pakistan.


Concern about disease outbreaks

Among the stops Mr. Lake made was Charsadda district in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This conflict-affected region suffered another major blow when the monsoon floods affected 75 per cent of the district’s 1.7 million people. Almost 70,000 people here are taking shelter in school buildings that have been converted into relief camps.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1646/Ramoneda
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake (right) administers oral polio vaccine to a baby at the Prang Government Primary School shelter in Charsadda district, located in the Pakistani province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Mr. Lake visited two such camps on the outskirts of Charsadda city. The camps are hosting a total of 332 families, including some 1,460 children and 440 women. UNICEF is providing water and sanitation, health, hygiene and child-protection services for the displaced.

The chairman of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority greeted Mr. Lake at the camps and briefed him on the devastation caused by the floods. Mr. Lake expressed keen interest in educational, recreational and health services being provided by UNICEF and its partners. He joined in children’s games and spoke with women at the shelters, discussing the issues and hardships they face after being forced from their homes and losing most of their belongings.

“UNICEF is going to do everything it can, not just during this emergency but as Pakistan works its way out of this emergency as well,” Mr. Lake told journalists during the camp visit. He pointed out, as well, that UNICEF is gravely concerned about possible outbreaks of deadly diseases in the floods’ aftermath.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1677/Ramoneda
Boys play a board game in a UNICEF-supported child-friendly space at the Prang Government Primary School in Charsadda district, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The school is being used as a relief camp for flood-affected families.

An oasis of safety

“This is one of the last areas in the world where there is polio, so the whole world will be watching to see how well we can do in preventing another outbreak, not just with measles, not just with diarrhoea, but with polio,” said Mr. Lake. “This specific area is very important for so many different reasons.”

The camps in Charsadda are a small oasis of safety in a country that has been devastated by its largest disaster in living memory. Nearly 8.6 million children have been affected by the floods throughout Pakistan, and about 3.5 million are at risk of contracting waterborne diseases. UNICEF is gravely concerned that further disaster will follow unless more aid becomes available immediately.




UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake visited Pakistan earlier this week to meet with officials, as well as visit relief camps and survey the damage caused by the mass flooding. He reflected on what he saw during his visit.
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