UN relief efforts continue in flood-hit Pakistan as scope of disaster comes into focus

4 August 2010
Victims of worst floods to hit Pakistan in several years, walk through water-filled streets in city of Nowshera

The number of people uprooted by the worst floods Pakistan has witnessed in decades continues to rise as the scale of the disaster becomes better understood, the United Nations humanitarian arm reported today, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dispatched an envoy to the region to help spur momentum for relief efforts.

The flooding, triggered by monsoonal rains, has already claimed an estimated 1,400 lives and wreaked havoc in neighbouring eastern Afghanistan as well.

A rapid assessment of the situation in Pakistan has found that nearly one million people have been displaced by flooding in Nowshera, Charsadda, Mardan and Peshawar, four districts in the hard-hit province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.

Nearly 100,000 homes have been destroyed in these districts, while some 50,000 others have sustained damage. Nowshera alone is home to over 650,000 affected people, while in some parts of Charsadda, the waters have destroyed all crops.

While figures for other districts and provinces are not available yet, it is estimated that up to 2 or 3 million more people could have been forced to leave their homes by the rains and flood waters.

Those affected urgently need emergency aid, especially food, clean drinking water, tents and medical services, OCHA reported, adding that tens of thousands of people have sought shelter and assistance at schools, football stadiums and other public buildings.

It also reported that relief efforts are picking up pace, with the UN continuing to rush relief to the flood victims.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is providing safe drinking water for some 500,000 people in KPK, and has set up 24 medical camps with its partners to reach 1 million people.

As of yesterday, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) had distributed food to more than 40,000 people in four districts and plans to expand its operations to other districts shortly, expecting to feed 250,000 people by the end of the week.

For its part, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has distributed some 10,000 tents and other supplies and is aiming to initially reach at least 250,000 of the most vulnerable flood victims with blankets, shelter and other items.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has provided enough diarrhoea treatment kits, health kits and emergency medicine for 200,000 for one month, while the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has provided 2,500 medical consultations as well as supplies.

OCHA cautioned that this is only the start of the monsoon season, with rains expected to continue into early next month.

The situation in areas already affected by flooding, it warned, could worsen, while new areas may also be inundated.

Jean-Maurice Ripert, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan, is due to arrive tomorrow in the country, where he will join the UN Country Team already taking part in relief operations.

Mr. Ripert will joint assess the situation on the ground with the UN team and Pakistani agencies.

“The Special Envoy, along with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Coordinator, will help mobilise support from the international community to assist the Government of Pakistan in addressing the urgent, immediate needs of the population in the affected areas and in planning for the early recovery and reconstruction period,” according to a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

Mr. Ripert, formerly France’s Ambassador to the UN, was appointed Special Envoy last August and was tasked with promoting a “strategic, coherent and comprehensive approach to supporting the humanitarian, recovery and reconstruction needs of crisis-affected areas” in concert with the Pakistani Government and international partners.


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