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Displaced by floods now reaching southern Pakistan, families seek shelter and relief

© REUTERS/Soomro
A woman and her baby wait for food aid at a makeshift camp for flood victims in Sukkur, in southern Pakistan's Sindh Province.

SUKKUR, Pakistan, 10 August 2010 – The floods that have inundated north-western Pakistan in recent weeks have now moved south, expanding the emergency into Sindh Province as torrential monsoon rains continue across wide areas of the country.

According to UN estimates, a total of 14 million people – including 6 million children – have been affected by the flood crisis. Hundreds of thousands have received humanitarian aid, but millions more urgently need shelter, food, water, and health care. And flooding could worsen considerably in the coming days, especially in parts of Sindh.

Search for answers

In Sukkur city, one of the province’s largest municipalities, the Government Comprehensive Higher Secondary School has been converted into a relief camp for people displaced by the floods. Tired and expressionless faces at the camp attest to the flood victims’ search for answers to their misery.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Raabya
Noor Jehan (right), with neighbours from her flooded village in Pakistan's Sindh Province, waits to receive news about her husband and brother-in-law, who remained behind to guard their animals and belongings.

Carrying her 15-month-old son in her arms, Noor Jehan, who comes from Unar Goth village in Shikarpur district, is as lost as many others from her community. Still in a state of shock and fatigue, she recalls fleeing from her ancestral village.

“I was tending the goats in the compound when my brother-in-law hurriedly came in and informed us that we had to vacate our house immediately as the river would flood our village by nightfall,” says Ms. Jehan. “It was chaotic. I don’t know how we loaded our meagre belongings onto the donkey cart, got onto it ourselves and set out on the road to Sukkur.”

Families take refuge

Ms. Jehan is deeply concerned about the well-being of her husband and brother-in-law. 


© REUTERS/Soomro
A man hands over his daughter to a naval rescue boat as he wades through floodwaters in Pakistan's Sindh Province.

“My husband and his brother stayed behind to safeguard our goats and the cow, our only source of income,” she says with tears in her eyes. “For us, it was an agonizing journey. We did not know our destination and were worried sick about our men that we left behind. After travelling for a day and a night, we have reached here but are uncertain of what will happen next.”

Twenty-five families from Unar Goth are at the temporary camp, but they are not the only ones sheltered here. In all, about 500 people have taken refuge in the settlement, and many more are expected to arrive.

Municipal officials in Sukkur have set up a medical clinic in the school building, and UNICEF is supporting the local health department’s efforts to revive immunization services. A vaccinator is busy immunizing children under the age of 15 against measles and providing them with vitamin A supplements to boost their immunity to disease.

Precarious situation
The city of Sukkur is located on the banks of Indus River, which takes in floodwaters from the north before draining into the Arabian Sea; as a result, the flood situation in the entire district is precarious. With rains continuing and water levels rising, the area has been placed on high alert.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Raabya
Families displaced by flooding await relief supplies after moving to safer areas in southern Pakistan's Sindh Province. Most have lost all of their belongings.

Tens of thousands of people in Sukkur district have been evacuated from low-lying areas. Unaware of the relief camps established by the government in this area – or unable to reach those camps – many displaced families are waiting for help out in the open without basic amenities such as safe drinking water, food, shelter, sanitation and hygiene supplies.

Under these conditions, children are particularly vulnerable to waterborne diseases and other dangers.

If the water level reaches a critical point, local authorities may have to deliberately breach a barrage, or dam, in Sukkur in order to save the city – but that would inundate numerous villages in the administrative areas of Sangrar, Salihpat and Ali Wahan. In response to the threat, much of the population in these areas has already been evacuated.



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