The United Nations humanitarian chief today urged the international community to provide the necessary resources to assist the millions of people in Pakistan who are still in need of vital assistance some four months after floods inundated large portions of the South Asian nation.
“There is a continuing need for a strong financial response and I want to see attention focused on this immense human tragedy,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos told a news conference in New York.
The $2 billion appeal for aid for Pakistani flood victims made in September, the largest-ever launched by the UN and its partners for a natural disaster, is currently 49 per cent funded.
“This is an emergency which will continue for months to come, and considerable relief efforts will continue to be necessary alongside recovery activities and development work,” said Ms. Amos, who just returned from a visit to Pakistan last week, her second since the disaster.
Reporting on what had already been achieved, she said that last month alone, the UN and its partners delivered food to 6 million people. In addition, more than 4.3 million people have access to safe drinking water on a daily basis, emergency shelter materials have been distributed to 4.7 million people, and more than 7 million are benefiting from essential healthcare.
“But there is still a great deal to do,” stated Ms. Amos, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.
“The floods in Pakistan are slowly falling out of the headlines but people are still experiencing an acute emergency situation which requires international attention.”
The floods that began in late July affected some 20 million people across the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan, and damaged schools, health centres, important infrastructure such as sanitation systems, bridges and roads, and destroyed croplands.
Large portions of the hardest-hit areas are still under water, noted Ms. Amos, adding that while approximately 50 to 60 per cent of the water has now receded, it might take another three to five months for the rest of the water to recede, particularly in Sindh.
“People are still living in a very precarious situation, many totally dependent on humanitarian assistance,” she said.
“And with winter now setting in, I’m concerned that more needs to be done to ensure that particularly those who are vulnerable have a roof over their heads.”
In a related development, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) announced today that 50 families uprooted by the floods in Pakistan’s northernmost province of Gilgit-Baltistan have moved into new houses they helped to build with the agency’s support.
The families are the first among thousands of people who will help to build and then reside in disaster-resistant structures in Gilgit-Baltistan, where about 87,000 people, or 10 per cent of the province’s population, have been displaced by floods and landslides since July.
“One of the first steps in rebuilding lives is to help people get a roof over their heads,” said Abdul Qadir, UNDP Environment Specialist in Pakistan. “Getting people into proper accommodation before winter comes is one of our important goals.”
The houses – made of poplar wood, stone masonry and water-resistant roofs – are each 400 square feet and cost the equivalent of $1,000. The interior – living room, kitchen, storage space, and washroom – is insulated to protect inhabitants from harsh winters.