UNICEF Representative visits devastated flood zone in southern Pakistan.
By David Youngmeyer
BADIN DISTRICT, SINDH, Pakistan, 23 September 2011 – Pakistan has been hit for a second year running by heavy monsoon rains that have turned the lives of millions of people upside down. With flood waters covering vast expanses of land, this new emergency is affecting 5.4 million people, almost 2.7 million of whom are children.
Although flooding is being tracked in four provinces across the country, the disaster is concentrated in Sindh province, where 22 out of 23 districts are affected. In Sindh alone, flood waters have pushed more than 300,000 people out of their homes and into relief sites at hundreds of schools, as well as in public buildings and impromptu camps on embankments and beside roads. Currently, up to 140,000 children are living in relief sites throughout Sindh.
UNICEF Pakistan Representative, Dan Rohrmann, visited Badin District, in southern Sindh - one of the worst-hit areas. Mr. Rohrmann spoke with families about their situation and witnessed first-hand the appalling conditions that many children and families continue to endure.
“[In Badin District] More than a million people are affected and more than 80,000 are living in camps,” said Mr. Rohrmann. “Many times the families had to leave their homes and leave everything behind and just come with their family and maybe with their livestock.”
Risk of waterborne diseaseAround 300 families, including 1,000 children, live at a roadside camp near Golarchi. Grandmother Lado Shero and her family of three generations have been living in a makeshift shelter at the camp since the floods destroyed their house last month.
Lado said that her three-year-old granddaughter, Shama, was suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting, most likely caused by contaminated water. She is currently receiving medical treatment and doing better. UNICEF has started providing regular deliveries of drinking water to the camp, which will reduce the risk of children contracting diarrhoea.
North of Badin city, more than 300 families have sought shelter at a school. Since becoming a relief camp, however, flood waters have encroached onto school grounds and flooded the toilets. Families now have to wade knee-deep through potentially infested water to get in and out of the camp.
“Due to the floods, all of our belongings have been destroyed,” said Bibi Hawwa, who lives at the camp. “The floods are contributing to different kinds of diseases and illness – people have skin infections, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Everyone is sick in this camp. We don’t have any food or drinking water facilities.”
Scaling up responseUNICEF is rapidly scaling up its emergency response in Badin District and other flood-affected areas. This includes providing tanker trucks delivering thousands of litres of clean water each day; vaccinating tens of thousands of children against measles and polio; and providing insecticide-treated bed nets to protect children from mosquitoes.