The humanitarian situation in Pakistan remains precarious four months after the devastating floods and could worsen this winter with more children at risk of acute respiratory infections and malnutrition, even as polio cases increase, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today.
“This crisis is far from over. It has just evolved in very different ways from one part of Pakistan to the next and the humanitarian effort has had to adapt swiftly to reach children and women most in need as their needs change,” said Daniel Toole, UNICEF’s Regional Director for South Asia.
A fifth of Pakistan’s territory was ravaged by the monsoon floods that affected 20 million people. Some 10,000 schools and rural health centres were damaged and important infrastructure was destroyed or badly damaged, including water and sanitation systems, bridges and roads.
“Although most people have returned to their home areas, many have returned to near total destruction – with no homes, no crops, no food and no cash,” Mr. Toole said.
UNICEF says it requires over $82 million to continue with its life-saving and recovery programmes in Pakistan.
“In the north, snow has fallen and we are delivering winter clothes and supplies to help families prepare for a harsh winter, while in the south very slow receding waters have meant over a million lives are still on hold. The coming cold months will sharply increase the numbers of respiratory infections and malnutrition, two of the biggest killers of Pakistani children,” Mr. Toole added.
A polio outbreak has spread quickly with 126 cases this year compared to 89 in 2009 – a major cause for concern because Pakistan had made significant progress towards eradicating polio. The country is one of the four polio endemic countries in the world and low vaccination coverage in areas experiencing insecurity in the north, overcrowding and poor sanitation as a result of the floods have exacerbated the threat for children.
Since the early stages of the floods, UNICEF has been providing clean water to 2.8 million people daily, and sanitation facilities to more than 1.5 million people.
UNICEF has partnered with the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government of Pakistan to immunize more than 9 million children against measles and polio. Nutritional supplements have reached nearly 300,000 pregnant women and mothers with young babies as well as malnourished children.
Education, through Temporary Learning Centres has been restored for 106,500 children and another 104,400 women and children through Child-Friendly Spaces which aim to protect them from risks of abuse, neglect and exploitation after the floods. In preparation for winter, UNICEF has started to distribute warm children’s clothing and blankets.