The torrential monsoon rains that have battered Pakistan in recent weeks have caused devastating floods and landslides, killed over 1,200 people and injured at least 6,000, destroyed over 1.1 million homes and critical infrastructureand submerged more than a third of the country, affecting some 33 million people, or 15% of the population.
United Nations agencies on the ground believe that more than 6.4 million people need urgent humanitarian aid. The most pressing needs are housing, clean water and food, and health care.
Risk for the health
Among the main impacts is the disruption of health services, which puts the most vulnerable families at high risk. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that under current conditions it is very easy for rapid transmission of life-threatening diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dengue and malaria.
The UN health agency stressed the urgent need to provide adequate medical care and supplies, including support for mental health care, and said that its field staff work to identify and detect possible outbreaks for immediate attentionalthough access to many disaster sites is still very difficult.
The World Food Program (WFP) Country Director for Pakistan also highlighted the logistical challenges posed by the floods in bringing life-saving aid to the affected population in a country where many people needed help even before the disaster.
“The situation in Pakistan was dire even before the floods with 43% of Pakistanis food insecure. There was a big problem with the region as a whole, including Afghanistan, where the biggest challenge would be to revive agricultural production that would help people feed themselves. WFP was increasingly concerned about how the floods would affect the Afghan population,” said Chris Kaye.
Employees of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pakistan said the scale of the disaster facing Pakistanis was unimaginable. “Many are live in the open while waiting for help local authorities and the humanitarian community try to help them as soon as possible. Others are crowded into relief camps or staying with host families,” they said.
To help meet the most pressing needs, UNHCR distributes tents, blankets, plastic sheeting, buckets and other household items in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Balochistan, which are among the most affected. It is also sending supplies to Sindh and plans to help some 50,000 households in the worst affected areas with over a million basic necessities.
In addition, the agency has mobilized its national workers to provide support to affected women and girls.
Pakistan currently hosts 1.3 million Afghan refugees, 420,000 of whom live in flooded communities.
For its part, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) highlighted the impact of the disaster on infrastructure that provides essential services to children, such as education and healthwith at least 18,000 schools damaged or destroyed in the country.
UNICEF estimates that 16 million children were affected and that 3.4 million of them are in need of humanitarian aid.
The Fund explained that many of the 72 worst affected districts were already among the most vulnerable in Pakistan and that 40% of children were already stunted before the floods.
“A lot of children are now more at risk, without homes, without schools or even without clean water, so there is a risk of many more child deaths, and the situation will continue to deteriorate because winter is only eight weeks away in some parts of the country,” he said.
UNICEF said it was providing emergency services and supplies such as drinking water, water purification tablets, hygiene kits, medicines, vaccines, therapeutic food for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and mosquito nets.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we aim to reach children and families first with life-saving medical supplies, essential medicines, vaccines and safe delivery kits, clean water and tablets. water treatment plants, sanitary supplies, nutritional supplies and mosquito nets. We also want to help children resume learning and will support the government to restore essential services for children as soon as possible,” he said.
Last week, the UN has launched a humanitarian appeal for 160 million dollars to meet the needs of 5.2 million flood-affected people in Pakistan.