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Millions displaced by devastating floods in Pakistan brace for winter without a home

By Ban Al-Dhayi

PUNJAB PROVINCE, Pakistan, 8 December 2010 – Flood waters that have devastated one-fifth of Pakistan’s lands and affected the lives of more than 20 million people have been receding in most of the affected areas, but the misery left behind is indescribable. And now, at least 10 million displaced persons across the country are returning home to try to rebuild their shattered lives.

VIDEO: 24 November 2010 - UNICEF correspondent Priyanka Pruthi reports on flood-displaced families struggling to survive winter in Pakistan.  Watch in RealPlayer


Farzana Fayaz, a mother of four in Noonwala village, located in the Muzaffargarh district of southern Punjab, is one of them. She fled their home when the floods struck in early August. By October, the water level in the district was 10 feet high. Three months on, Ms. Fayaz and her family have returned to face the calamity.

“Our biggest concern now is winter,” she says. “We came back to find our houses and fields completely washed away by the floods. We need shelter, I make bricks myself to build my house because the price of construction material has gone too high. I am worried about my four children; in the night it becomes very cold. We do not have any warm clothes, no food, no covers and bedding for us and for the children. I only want to secure food and warm place for my children.”

© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Dhayi
Children sit in the rubble of their house, which was washed away by floods in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab Province.

Homeless families

For poor families and their children coming back to rural areas that were hard hit by the floods, the crisis has just begun. With their meagre resources and loss of cattle and livelihoods, it can be even harder to secure a modest shelter that will keep children warm in the winter.

Meeting the needs of those still displaced by the floods, and helping them prepare for the upcoming winter months, are critical priorities for UNICEF.

“I wouldn’t say the emergency is over,” notes UNICEF Multan Emergency Coordinator Jan Sigismund. “You can say the situation is different, but when you see that people have no houses to live in, the children have no schools, there is no proper hygiene – of course it’s an emergency.”

© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Dhayi
Zubaida Aiman, 6, attends classes in a school tent established by UNICEF in Noonwala village, located in the flood-affected Muzaffargarh district of Punjab Province, Pakistan.

Dire need of assistance

As the emergency evolves in north-western Pakistan, it creates new challenges for the affected population and humanitarian responders. In the southern province of Sindh, meanwhile, some areas are still flooded and thus immediate relief operations continue.

Significant relief needs will likely remain for at least another six months. In the north, the rapidly approaching cold weather calls for vital additional support for winter preparation in flood-affected areas, many of which may soon be cut off.

In addition, the cold will sharply increase the numbers of acute respiratory infections and exacerbate the high rates of malnutrition.

UNICEF’s ongoing response

Since the early stages of the flood crisis, UNICEF has been providing clean water to an unprecedented 2.8 million people daily, and sanitation facilities to more than 1.5 million people. UNICEF also has partnered with World Health Organization and the Government of Pakistan to immunize more than 9 million children against measles and polio. Nutritional supplements have reached nearly 300,000 pregnant women and mothers with young babies, as well as malnourished children.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Dhayi
A man rebuilds the wall of his flood-damaged home in Noonwala village, Punjab Province, Pakistan.

Through temporary learning centres, UNICEF has helped restore education for 106,500 children. “The floods destroyed our school. Then a tent school was opened here in the village,” says Zubaia Aiman, 6, from Noonwala in Punjab’s Muzaffargarh district. “I am very happy to study in the tent school, my sister and brother are also attending and they are happy too.”

Another 104,400 women and children have benefited from UNICEF-supported ‘child-friendly spaces’ designed to protect flood-affected young people from risks of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Adequate funding is essential for UNICEF to be able to sustain emergency support and reach the most vulnerable children and women in each province and district of Pakistan hit by the floods.



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