Floods continue to force thousands more people from their homes in southern Pakistan, seven weeks since the country was first hit by the one of the worst natural disasters in recent history, the United Nations reported today, saying there were survivors still stranded in submerged villages.
“The flood waters are rising, and every day we are seeing 20,000 to 30,000 people newly displaced,” said Andy Pendleton, an official of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Hyderabad in the southern province of Sindh.
“The waters around Lake Manchar are overflowing in five directions to where flood victims who fled other locations are now living,” he added.
Fawad Hussain, OCHA’s relief coordinator for Sindh, said people are referring to the latest flooding as a ‘lake burst.’
“First we had the rain, then the waters from the river, and now the lake,” Mr. Hussain said. “We have not been able to scale up [the response] as quickly in the far south due to lack of funding. Now with the revised response plan launched, we hope to increase our resources,” he added.
According to Aphaluck Bhapiasevi, an official of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) in Hyderabad, there are people marooned in villages who are still waiting for help. WHO has been sending medical emergency health kits to areas where the newly displaced have moved.
“Diarrhoeal diseases and malnutrition are a huge concern. Children are at greatest risk,” said Muireann Brennen of WHO.
Camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and makeshift settlements are overcrowded and services are inadequate. “Far more shelter materials are required to meet the rapidly increasing needs in the south”, said Emmanuel Gignac, Emergency Coordinator for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) in Sindh.
“The monsoon rains may be over, but the floods are not,” said Andro Shilakadze, the head of the local office of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“And once the floods are over, we must stress that the most dangerous phase of this emergency is yet to come. We must all work together in a concerted manner to avert a health crisis, prevent further malnutrition, and combat the effects of food shortages,” he said.
Of the estimated 20 million people affected by floods, more than 7.3 million are in Sindh, where almost 1.1 million homes are estimated to have been destroyed and close to 1.5 million people are sheltered in camps.
The UN and its partners in Sindh have been able to reach some 1.3 million people with food aid, while emergency shelter has been provided for 500,000 people. Clean drinking water is now available to nearly 500,000 people, and more than one million have received medical attention.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi met today in New York and discussed a number of issues, including the flood emergency. The meeting touched on ways of coordinating relief efforts to get assistance to those most in need as quickly as possible.