Global perspective Human stories

As temperatures plummet, UNICEF rushes supplies to vulnerable Pakistanis

As temperatures plummet, UNICEF rushes supplies to vulnerable Pakistanis

A woman cares for her children in a camp in Charsadda District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is rushing essential supplies by helicopter to thousands of people in Pakistan who after surviving last year’s devastating floods are now at risk from plummeting winter temperatures.

The floods, which began more than six months ago, affected 20 million people and damaged or destroyed more than 2 million homes, laying waste to of over 2 million hectares of crops. Many people displaced by the floods still do not have proper shelter.

The agency is providing warm clothes, shoes, blankets and newborn kits to the most vulnerable villages, including in the mountainous Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, amid freezing temperatures and snow in the northern parts of the country.

UNICEF also reports in a news release issued on Monday that many of the relief camps, where several hundred thousand displaced people still live, will shortly close as authorities encourage families to return to their areas of origin.

“People are very worried about where they are going to go because they don’t have anything to go back to. Their household belongings are gone. Their livelihood is gone,” said Shandana Aurangzeb of UNICEF’s field office in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Adding to an already dire situation is the fact that shifting floodwaters have disturbed previously hidden mines and unexploded ordnance. Three people, including two children, have been killed by exploding landmines.

Children’s education has also been disrupted as a result of the floods, the agency adds. This is true especially for girls, who are expected to look after their siblings and help with household chores rather than go to school.

The disaster has, however, opened up new learning opportunities for some children from displaced families, who have been able to go to school for the very first time thanks to UNICEF’s temporary learning centres.

“But this taste of education could be short-lived,” UNICEF points out, noting that many children have already returned to communities that have no schools.

The UN and its partners have requested $1.96 billion to fund flood relief and recovery efforts in Pakistan. Some 62 per cent, or $1.2 billion, of the required amount has so far been received.