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Pakistan faces challenge of securing more than 8m flood victims
Floods affect about 20m
By Raheel Khan
ISLAMABAD – Heavy rain lashed the makeshift camps housing Pakistan's flood survivors August 16 and authorities warned of more flooding this week, as the UN asked the world to quickly send aid for about 20m affected people.
Pakistan's worst floods in recorded history began more than two weeks ago in the northwest and have spread throughout the country. Some 20m people and 160,000 square km of land — about 20% of the country — have been affected.
“As of August 16, 2010, 1,423 people are confirmed dead and 1,424 have been injured in the current wave of rains and floods. These floods have affected 4,887 villages in the four provinces, Gilgat-Baltistan and Kashmir region of Pakistan, partially destroying 119,478 houses and fully destroying 298,051 houses and killing 19,096 domestic cattle,” Noor Badsha, an official at the Flood Commission of Pakistan at Islamabad, told Central Asia Online.
The magnitude of destruction is large, and government relief efforts seem small.
“So far, 208 relief camps have been established across the country; 184 are in Punjab and the remaining are in Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan,” Noor said.
“It is a gloomy situation. Initially we estimated that 6m people were in urgent need of relief but these figures are increasing and more than 8m people are at risk who need immediate relief in terms of food, water, shelter and medicine across the flood-hit areas of Pakistan,” Maurizio Giuliano, UN public information officer at Islamabad, told Central Asia Online, adding that the numbers could rise further.
Giuliano added that more international support is needed. “Initially the required amount for relief work was estimated as US $469m, but now this figure is increasing. There could be more floods, which would multiply the victims and risks involved.”
When asked how much has been received, Giuliano said, “We have received only 30% of what is needed; the international community needs to donate more funds. Those affected need food, medicine, shelter and clean drinking water. We are here to support the Pakistani government’s efforts, but it’s a huge catastrophe which requires a lot of money and work.”
He said more will die because of water-borne illness and starvation if aid does not come soon.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh are the worst affected areas.
“Recently, I visited Pakhtunkhwa and now I am on a visit to Punjab. It’s a huge catastrophe. The humanitarian organisations are trying to reach out to these people but even more and more efforts are needed,” Hussainullah, spokesperson for the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA), told Central Asia Online by phone from Multan.
“The rescue operation is complete, but there are still people in parts of Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab whose villages are cut off from markets and who needs food, clean drinking water, health and medical facilities,” Hussainullah said. “Some of the people in still need to be relocated to safe places.”
The “Herculean task” is to start a hygiene campaign and provide flood victims with clean drinking water, medicine, food and shelter, he said.
The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has warned that if it is not supported, lack of capacity may affect the ongoing war against terror.
“Pakhtunkhwa is the front line region in the war against terror, and it is suffering a lot in the war against terror. Recent floods multiplied the agonies of the Pashtuns,” Arif Khan, a Peshawar-based political analyst, told Central Asia Online
He said floods have almost destroyed 60-70% of the infrastructure, crops and business in Nowshera and Charsadda.
Parts of Sindh are inundated by water and people have been displaced.
Fawad, another spokesperson for UNOCHA, told Central Asia Online from Sukkar, Sindh, said, “It is a huge humanitarian disaster. It’s more than 2m people affected here. We are trying to reach out to the flood victims, but a lot more is required to be done to reach out to these people.”
Pakistan, which has been fighting the war on terror for the last couple of years, was already under financial stress. The flooding has exacerbated that.