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UNICEF responds as floods affect over 3 million in north-western Pakistan

A man evacuates his children through waist-deep waters after heavy flooding in Nowshera, located in north-western Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province.

NEW YORK, USA, 3 August 2010 – More than 1,400 people are dead and more than 3 million people – including 1.4 million children – need emergency assistance after the worst floods to hit Pakistan in 80 years devastated large parts of the country in recent days. As floodwaters begin to recede, UNICEF and its partners are sending relief supplies to the flood zone.

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To date, UNICEF has provided hygiene kits, water tankers and high-energy biscuits for children and families at risk. The agency has also repaired 73 wells benefitting 800,000 people and supported the rapid deployment of 24 medical camps. UNICEF is asking international donors for $10.3 million to meet the immediate needs of the affected population.

“We have already provided a first tranche of humanitarian supplies and will be bringing in more over the next days during this critical life-saving period,” said UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Martin Mogwanja.  

‘Crucial needs’

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, located in the mountains of north-western Pakistan, is the province worst affected by the floods. Many of the province’s estimated 3.5 million residents lost their crops and saw their homes flooded, damaged or destroyed.

Soldiers use a boat to evacuate a family through a main road in Nowshera, located in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, where heavy monsoon rains have triggered the worst floods in decades.

Communication networks in many areas remain down or disrupted, and ground access is limited because bridges, highways and roads have been blocked or destroyed by the floods.

“There are crucial needs for food and safe drinking water,” said Mr. Mogwanja. “Potential disease outbreaks among survivors are a major concern.” 

The UNICEF Representative returned yesterday from visits to two flood-affected agricultural districts where UNICEF is working to prevent the spread of deadly diarrhoeal diseases in young children.

Providing safe water to the hundreds of thousands of people whose water supply has been polluted or damaged by the floods is now essential. UNICEF is working with the Pakistani authorities to repair wells and drinking water sources as quickly as possible – and to provide chlorine tablets so that water can be treated before it is consumed.

A firsthand view

On an aerial tour of the region, Mr. Mogwanja was able to see firsthand how communities were affected by the floods.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Mogwanja
An aerial view of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, one of the areas worst affected by recent flooding in Pakistan.

“Houses were literally swimming in the midst of muddy water,” he said. “Crops had been washed away or destroyed, trees were pushed down by the strength of the water, and walls of buildings had crumbled and fallen.”

During his tour of the flood zone, Mr. Mogwanja also stopped for ground visits in two districts where survivors recounted having to climb trees or go to rooftops to save their own lives. He also met people whose relatives had perished in the floods and who were now struggling to keep their loved ones’ bodies dry for proper burials once the floodwaters recede.

“It’s very difficult to tell how long the recovery effort will take,” said Mr. Mogwanja. He estimated that at least three to six months of work will be needed to restore just the basic facilities that have been destroyed. 

Fears of renewed flooding

Although the floodwaters are receding in some parts of the affected provinces, new storm systems are moving into the area and experts fear renewed flooding.

“There’s going to be great needs in terms of water, shelter and assuring the health care of the population because of water-borne diseases,” said Mr. Mogwanja. Food security will also present a challenge, he noted, adding. “Much of the food stocks have been lost.”

In neighbouring Afghanistan, meanwhile, UNICEF is distributing emergency assistance in several central and eastern provinces where floods were triggered by the same torrential rains that swept through north-western Pakistan.




2 August 2010: UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Martin Mogwanja speaks with UNICEF Radio about the recent floods and the recovery efforts.
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