A group of United Nations agencies have developed a combined strategy focusing on the areas of food, health, nutrition, and water and sanitation to ensure a coordinated response to the crisis in flood-hit Pakistan and ensure the survival of millions of people.
The so-called ‘Survival Strategy’ seeks to ensure a more integrated, effective and timely response to address the key factors contributing to diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, malaria, measles, cholera and malnutrition, as well as maternal and neo-natal mortality and morbidity.
The Strategy comes as the directors of the emergency divisions of UNICEF, WHO and WFP wrapped up a visit to flood-affected areas in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and warned that the crisis is far from over and is worsening for the most vulnerable people.
“The sheer scale of this disaster is unprecedented and requires unprecedented measures,” said Eric Laroche, WHO Assistant Director-General of Health Action in Crisis.
“One of the many challenges we are facing is to provide assistance to people cramped in scattered spontaneous settlements, thus making it very difficult to address life threatening risks and to provide the health coverage they so desperately need,” Dr. Laroche added.
WHO estimates that some 20 million people have been affected by the floods, which began in late July, including 8 million needing direct life-saving assistance.
The agencies warned of the serious risks posed by unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, food shortages and a lack of access to health services, and voiced grave concern about the likelihood of disease outbreaks and deaths due to malnutrition.
They noted that many of those affected by the floods come from the areas where the disease burden, malnutrition rates and health risks were already very high.
“A combination of illness, food insecurity and destruction of crops is now compounding the situation, making people more vulnerable, especially children,” they stated in a news release.
Louis-Georges Arsenault, Director of Emergency Programmes at UNICEF, emphasised the importance of working together to ensure the survival of those affected, particularly of children.
“We have to also remember that this is an important opportunity to reach people who were already vulnerable before the floods and who were not receiving the assistance that they needed.
“With sufficient resources and good collaboration, we can make great gains in tackling some of the problems that have been present here for a long time. This is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss,” he added.
WFP, for its part, voiced serious concern about the nutritional situation of those affected by the floods.
“We urgently need to keep feeding people in this crisis – food provision is the cornerstone of any strategy to assist people and to prevent malnutrition,” said David Kaatrud, Director of Emergencies at WFP.
During the visit, the joint UN team visited key emergency relief programmes related to health, food and nutrition activities and took park in an aerial survey of some of the most recent and worst hit areas in Dadu and Sehwan in Sindh province.
They called on the international community to continue its support and to respond urgently to the recently revised floods response plan issued by the UN which seeks more than $2 billion to provide assistance for up to 14 million people affected by the floods over a 12-month period.