It is estimated that 7.1 million people have been affected by the devastating floods that have once again struck Pakistan.
The impact of sustained and heavy monsoon rains in recent weeks has resulted in vast areas of the country being submerged. The government estimates that almost five million people are directly affected by the floods which have inundated almost four million acres of land and damaged or destroyed close to one million homes.
The disaster is at its worst in the southern province of Sindh, which is still reeling from the effects of last year’s floods. Other affected provinces include Baluchistan and Punjab. In Sindh, the impact is vastly heightened due to widespread breaches of agricultural canals and saline water drains. During the last month, intense and scattered heavy rainfall has led to flooding in 20 of Sindh’s 23 districts, five of which have been declared ‘calamity areas’. According to the Pakistan meteorological office, further downpours and thunderstorms are anticipated.
The current disaster has left thousands without food and shelter. Over 500,000 displaced people are now living in temporary relief camps.
‘We cannot fail these communities’; says Senator Nilofer Bhaktiar, Chairwoman of the Pakistan Red Crescent, ‘For the past year we have struggled to help thousands to recover from the 2010 floods. Just as their crops were ready to harvest, the floods have come again and literally taken the food from their mouths’.
Pakistan Red Crescent relief and medical teams have been deployed and have so far been able to reach 14,800 families with food and non-food relief items which include tents, kitchen sets, sleeping mats and mosquito nets. The IFRC aims to enable the Red Crescent to help a further 105,000 people over the coming four months in the worst hit districts of Badin, Mirpurkhas, Khairpur, Nawabshah/Shaheed Benazirabad, and Dadu in Sindh province. The focus for the Red Crescent will be on providing emergency relief - covering basic food and essential household items, tents and tarpaulins for shelter and medical care - focusing on reducing the risk of water borne diseases, and improved access to clean water and sanitation.
There has been widespread disruption to local medical services. Many basic health units and rural health centres in the severely affected districts of Sindh are under water or are inaccessible. Red Crescent mobile health teams have been operating in Mirpurkhas, Benazirabad Hyderabad and Badin providing treatment to over 6000 people so far. The most common diseases are diarrhoea, acute respiratory tract infections, skin infections and suspected malaria. The situation in camps is far from satisfactory. Overcrowding with scarce hygiene and sanitation facilities and the lack of safe drinking water poses a major health threat, increasing the risk of outbreaks of communicable diseases.
Providing clean water to affected populations is a priority and so far, 47,000 people have benefitted from the water and sanitation relief provided by the Red Crescent. The Red Crescent has set up a water purification plant in Badin while two more plants are planned for Benazirabad and Mirpurkhas. Water purification sachets or tablets are also being distributed.
The entire scale of the current disaster remains largely unknown as road networks in many areas are either badly damaged or remain flooded. A preliminary rapid assessment mission has been conducted by the Red Crescent and will continue as areas become more accessible. Once a clear picture emerges, the IFRC will revise the preliminary emergency appeal according to the needs.
Nationally, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society has mobilised over 7000 relief and medical personnel across 22 flood affected districts.
Photo: Pakistan’s southern Sindh province was hit hard by the monsoon spell that started on 09 August 2011. Olivier Matthys/IFRC/PRCS
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