Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced extreme concern over the catastrophic floods that have killed hundreds of people in Pakistan and urged donors to contribute generously to the humanitarian response, saying the effects of the disaster rivalled the impact of the earthquake that struck the South Asian country in 2005.
“The scale of this disaster [floods] rivals that of the earthquake in October 2005, but this time the geographic range is much greater,” the Secretary-General told reporters in New York. The earthquake is estimated to have claimed the lives of 80,000 people and caused widespread destruction in areas around Pakistan’s border with India.
An estimated 6 million people have already been affected by the floods, which have inundated villages, killing people and destroying or damaging some 290,000 homes, crops, the infrastructure and other property. Continuing rainfall has been hampering the emergency humanitarian response.
Shelter for more than 2 million people is the most urgent need, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“Let me stress now that we must also give thought to medium and longer-term assistance. This will be a major and protracted task,” Mr. Ban said. “I appeal for donors to generously support Pakistan at this difficult time.”
John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, stressed that needs for those affected continued to rise.
“The humanitarian effort needs to be scaled up accordingly, as fast as we can,” Mr. Holmes said in a press release. “The funding needed for humanitarian relief in the coming weeks and months will inevitably be hundreds of millions of dollars,” he added.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (PKP) in the north-west remains the most affected region, even as the floods, caused by torrential monsoon rains, have spread to other parts of the country, including Gilgit Baltistan, Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan.
UN agencies and their humanitarian partners will soon issue an appeal for several hundred million dollars to fund efforts to meet the immediate needs of those affected, according to the Secretary-General.
He said that UN offices in Pakistan were working to supplement the efforts of the Government and local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide immediate relief, including food, drinking water, shelter and health care. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan, Jean-Maurice Ripert, is working with the authorities to assess needs and mobilize aid, Mr. Ban added.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported that acute diarrhoea, scabies and acute respiratory tract infection were the main health problems seen among those affected by the floods.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said children were particularly vulnerable to diarrhoeal diseases during floods.
“The biggest health threat to flood-affected children is diarrhoea. For displaced children living in camps and on motorway settlements, measles is yet another serious concern,” said Mohamed Cissé, UNICEF’s chief of health and nutrition in Pakistan.
The agency plans to plans to deliver 4.2 million sachets of oral rehydration salts, and 2.1 million doses of zinc, to children in the affected areas this week to prevent dehydration and a potential outbreak of measles.
Donors have so far provided $38.2 million to the UN and its partners for the flood response, while a further $90.9 million has been promised. “We are very grateful for this show of generosity, and rely on continued support in the months to come,” said Martin Mogwanja, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan.