With devastating floods, which have already ravaged large swathes of northwestern and central Pakistan, moving towards the country's south, United Nations officials are calling for relief operations to be ramped up.
Sindh Province, bordering the Arabian Sea, is already being affected by the floods triggered by torrential monsoon rains, which have so far affected at least 4 million people and claimed some 1,400 lives.
Martin Mogwanja, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, has likened the impact of the flooding – the worst in living memory – to that of the 2005 earthquake, which affected more than 3 million people.
“The assistance that we have so far provided has alleviated suffering, but relief operations need to be massively scaled up,” he said.
Shelter, plastic sheeting and household goods are urgently needed, Mr. Mogwanja said. “Stocks need to be urgently airlifted to the affected areas, and we count on donors to assist with this.”
Andro Shilakadze, who heads the Sindh field office of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), emphasized that “the water levels are very high, and the risk of serious flooding is increasing rapidly.”
He said that the agency is planning for the worst-case scenario so that it can provide emergency relief if necessary.
So far, 150,000 people have been evacuated from the province's low-lying areas, with more than 400 relief points having been set up to help them.
Meanwhile in Punjab, in eastern Pakistan, it is believed that at least 1.6 million people have been affected by flooding, with 84,000 homes having been destroyed, leaving 500,000 people homeless.
In addition, 1.4 million acres of farmland was destroyed in Punjab, where people rely heavily on agriculture for their food supply.
In the hardest-hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province, food, clean water and shelter supplies have been distributed, but the UN has noted that much more remains to be done.
“The needs are enormous, and the water continues to rise,” said Ahmed Warsame, head of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Peshawar, a city in KPK.
The agency, he said, will begin delivering 4,000 tents and 4,000 plastic sheets in the Asakhel refugee settlement.
Earlier this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that up to $10 million will be disbursed from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), set up in 2006 to allow the UN to dispatch funds to tackle disasters and crises as soon as they emerge, to help address needs in Pakistan following the floods.
In addition, Mr. Mogwanja said yesterday that the UN has set up an emergency relief fund, with nearly $10 million received so far. UN agencies have also received $16 million for their work.
“However, this response so far is not sufficient to enable UN agencies and their partners to address the extent of the crisis,” he underlined, adding that a flash appeal to deal with the disaster will soon be launched by the UN and its humanitarian partners.
An initial emergency response plan is being prepared to cover immediate relief needs – such as food, health care, clean water, shelter, agriculture and others – for the next 90 days.
The UN, Mr. Mogwanja said, is using its contingency stocks and has diverted funds, but “all this is just running out given the scale and scope of this crisis.”
He estimated that between $150 million and $200 million, or possibly more, will be required for relief and longer-term recovery to allow people to rebuild their livelihoods and repair infrastructure, with many bridges and roads having been washed away by the floods.