Pakistan Floods: Seven Million Victims–Women and Children Are The ‘Most Miserably Hit’


Human Wrongs Watch

Heavy monsoon rain in southern Pakistan is hitting children and women worst of all. Over 2.5 million children have been affected by new severe floods, and around 1.5 million women of reproductive age are among the now over seven million victims.

Credit: UN

The new figures come as Pakistani government announced on September 17th that the number of people affected by the recent floods that hit the country has risen to more than seven million people, and the death toll to 342 people. Injured people total 633 the day the government made its announcement.

The new disaster struck a high number of people in the Sindh province who were already struggling to recover from the 2010 floods, which displaced 18 million people and killed about two thousand.

Death And Destruction Everywhere

The National Commission for Disaster Management also said on September 17th that the heavy rains have so far flooded more than 2.4 million hectares of land, and damaged over 500 thousand homesThe National Commission for Disaster Management also said on September 17th that the heavy rains have so far flooded more than 2.4 million hectares of land, and damaged over 500 thousand homes

Sindh province’s government had informed on September 14th that 1.2 million homes have been washed away, while the aid agency Oxfam has reported that more than 1,699,680 hectares of have been flooded and 643,450 hectares of standing crops destroyed.

Meanwhile, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that more than five million people are urgent need of food, shelter, safe water and access to health services.

Around three million of the total number of people affected are children, including some 800,000 children below the age of five.

High-Energy Biscuits 

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The agency is delivering safe water, sanitation and health supplies, such as vaccines and medicines, to ward off disease.

The World Food Programme (WFP), which is providing food aid to more than 1.4 million people still recovering from last year’s devastating floods, is increasing life-saving food assistance to parts of Sindh province that have been hit the worst by the latest floods.

WFP has distributed food to 15,300 people in the most-affected districts, notably Badin, the agency’s spokesperson in Geneva, Christiane Berthiaume, had said. The one-month rations include high-energy biscuits and specialised nutritious food for children such as Wawa Mum, a chick-pea paste made in Pakistan.

The agency is aiming to provide emergency assistance to about half a million people by the end of the month and planned to scale up deliveries to reach 2.2 million by October.

Rushing Help to Women Already Severely Anaemic

Meanwhile, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is rushing reproductive health supplies to Sindh given the disruption to services in various health facilities.

The agency estimates that at least 1.2 million women of reproductive age are among the 5 million people affected by the heavy monsoon rains and floods. At least 115,000 are pregnant. These numbers were reported before the Pakistani government announced that the number of victims had raised from 5 to 7 million.

Among the major concerns is that women who were already severely anaemic will be even more prone to complications of pregnancy and delivery, the agency said. Also, with the continuing rains and stagnating water, pregnant women and newborns living in open air are increasingly exposed to malaria and dengue.

Reproductive Health Needs of 600,000 People For One Month

UNFPA has dispatched supplies to cover the reproductive health needs of 600,000 people for one month in Sindh, and is moving 25 mobile service units to seven of the hardest-hit districts in the province. The vehicles are equipped to provide primary health care, basic emergency obstetric care and services responding to gender-based violence.

UNFPA ensures that women are able to deliver safely even in times of disaster. While our role remains the same whether in emergency, early recovery or development, in a humanitarian crisis our work becomes even more urgent as the vulnerability of women and girls is increased,” said Rabbi Royan, the agency’s country representative in Pakistan.

Tarek Jasarevic, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the agency and its partners had conducted a rapid health assessment in the 22 affected districts of Sindh to identify the health services available to the population as well as existing gaps.

Inaccessible Health Facilities

The assessment found that 224 out of 839 health facilities in the affected areas were inaccessible, submerged by flood water or damaged, accounting for 33 per cent of all basic health units and 11 per cent of all rural health centres.

Supplies of essential medicines were adequate thanks to pre-positioned buffer stocks which had been available at very short notice.

However, if these stocks were not replenished, acute shortages of vaccines, medicines and consumables would occur, Jasarevic warned.

We Did Not Know Where to Go”

We did not know where to go when the rains swept in, took away our goats and destroyed the vegetable crop we had cultivated,” said Azrah Bibi from Badin District, according to OCHA’s humanitarian news and analysis service (IRIN).

She and her extended family of eight are currently camped along a roadside near the town of Badin.

We saw some people here and joined them. Some people delivered one lot of food, but there has been very little since, and it is hard to cook anyway since we have no facilities other than a fire from bits of timber and scrap,” she said.

Children, in particular, need access to clean water and also sanitation to prevent illness from breaking outLike many others affected by this year’s flood, Azrah Bibi and her husband, Gulab Din, 45, were also affected by the floods of 2010, widely rated as the worst in the country’s history, which partially damaged their home and also their rice crop.

No Water, No Sanitation

Kristen Elsby, a spokesperson for UNICEF, told IRIN from Islamabad that in some areas people had indeed been affected before they could recover from the previous disaster.

Children, in particular, need access to clean water and also sanitation to prevent illness from breaking out,” she said.

UNICEF is now providing water in tankers to people camped along roadsides and working with the WFP to offer food. “At a later stage we will need to meet educational needs since over 1,000 schools are currently being used as shelters,” she said.

The Situation Is Really Bad

The situation in the flood zone is really bad. People need much more help and things are especially miserable for women and children who lack privacy, toilet facilities and other amenities,” Muhammad Khalid, a volunteer with the charitable Edhi Foundation, told IRIN from Khairpur District in Sindh.

As awareness of the scale of the calamity spreads, other agencies are moving in. “Children living in Sindh were already very weak and vulnerable following last year’s floods, and rates of malnutrition are high,” said Faris Kasim, spokesperson for Save the Children, US, in Pakistan.

And More Heavy Rains Are To Come

Now thousands of children are again having to survive in the cold, at risk of disease and facing an even tougher struggle to get the food they need. It’s crucial we provide life-saving supplies to the affected population as fast as possible to make sure children have shelter and are protected from life-threatening disease.”

But for now, the struggle is a tough one, and recovery will take time, with the Meteorological Office predicting more heavy rain over the coming week starting on September 19th in Sindh and elsewhere, threatening to aggravate an already critical situation.

Related:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=39581&Cr=pakistan&Cr1=

http://www.irinnews.org/printreport.aspx?reportid=93738

http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6115947/k.8D6E/Official_Site.htm

2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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