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Pakistani flood emergency still unfolding, UN relief chief warns during visit

Pakistani flood emergency still unfolding, UN relief chief warns during visit

Valerie Amos visits a makeshift school in Kashmore built on high ground during her visit to the flood affected population
With millions of homes and livelihoods in flood-hit Pakistan washed away, disease spreading in affected areas and large swathes of the country still under water, the top United Nations relief official today warned that the emergency there is not yet over.

“Everything I saw and heard today confirmed that this disaster – already one of the largest the world has seen – is still getting bigger,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos.

Ms. Amos spent the second day of her three-day visit in Sindh, where she met some of the 6.9 million people affected by the heavy floods in the southern Pakistani province and reviewed the ongoing relief effort with local authorities and humanitarian workers.

“The crisis in Sindh province alone is bigger than anything most countries have faced,” said Ms. Amos, who arrived in Pakistan yesterday, her first day on the job.

More than 27,000 square kilometres of the province are still under water, and nearly half a million homes there have been destroyed as a result of the floods, which began at the end of July and have also affected much of the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan.

The death toll from the floods stands at over 1,750 and more than 1.8 million houses are now categorized as either damaged or destroyed.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Ms. Amos heads, said today that diarrhoea is spreading in flood-affected areas and the potential for a malaria outbreak and an increase in malnutrition is “worrying.”

The UN and its partners have so far delivered one-month food rations to 445,000 people in Sindh, provided essential medication to cover the potential health needs of 656,700 people, and set up nearly 7,790 tents and almost 33,670 tarpaulins – sufficient shelter for 122,820 people.

Some 115,000 people receive clean drinking water every day in the province through water tanks, hand pumps and water purification tablets, OCHA added.

While in Sindh, the UN humanitarian chief spoke with families living in temporary shelters to determine whether their needs were being met by the relief effort. She also discussed with a mother of six the difficulties the family was facing in keeping themselves healthy without sufficient access to clean water, food, proper sanitation or bed nets.

“The concerns people expressed to me were mostly about problems we can address such as malaria, their children not getting enough to eat, skin diseases and insufficient shelter. People are also worried about their futures – for many of them even when the waters recede, they will have nothing to go back to.”

In the provincial capital, Sukkur city, Ms. Amos met affected people at a camp at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA). She sat with children attending a temporary school there. Over 4,000 schools in Sindh have been taken over to shelter displaced people, and temporary schools such as the one at the IBA camp are helping keep children’s education on track.

She also met with local representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UN agencies and local authorities to discuss the challenges facing the relief effort.

“With 21 million people affected across Pakistan this cannot be treated as just another crisis – it is an immense and still unfolding catastrophe,” stated Ms. Amos.

“The humanitarian community has so much to offer here. We can prevent a lot of needless suffering, but only if our operations on the ground are scaled up properly. I am going to have to ask our supporters to dig deeper as we need a lot more resources.”

So far just $294 million – or 64 per cent – of the $460 million requested by the UN and its partners for the Pakistan initial flood emergency response plan has been received.