Flood devastation massive by any scale: UNICEF

Agency chief calls for scaling up humanitarian assistance for Pakistan’s flood victims

The regional director of United Nations International Fund for Children in Emergency (UNICEF), George Laryea-Adjei, on Sunday said that the flood devastation in Pakistan was massive by any scale as the agency alone was seeking $173.5 million for providing humanitarian assistance to the flood victims in post-disaster relief efforts.

UNICEF’s regional director for South Asia, in an exclusive chat with the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan, said that the fallout of the recent disaster was extensive and contained waterborne diseases that were affecting farmland, schools and everyone at large.

George said some 84 districts were to face immense challenges due to disasters, whereas out of the total $173.5 million — $34.6 million was required for nutrition; $35 million for health; $58 million for washing; $11 million for child protection; $23 million for education and $11 million for emergency preparedness.

He said that he had visited many districts of Balochistan and Sindh and felt the distress of the affected families. “The Government of Pakistan is leading the response. However, 9.6 million children need humanitarian assistance and due to floods some 23,000 schools are either destroyed or damaged,” he regretted. Commenting on the challenges encountered in post-disaster relief and rehabilitation efforts, the UNICEF director said he was noticing two massive challenges that the government should address.

“The first is the community in areas ready to return to their destroyed homes after the flood water recedes. They are going to their homes where there is no food, cattle are lost, schools are impacted heavily and farms could be inundated and water polluted. “We will have to assist these communities. We will have to come up with alternatives. For example, a tent school could be established as an alternative, whereas temporary facilities must be in place,” he weighed in.

Appreciating the flood cash relief under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), George said the government was providing funding which should not halt at any stage. The second challenge, he emphasised, was assistance for the communities that were still underwater. “They are staying with friends and families and others in camps. Some are in informal and others are in formal camps. We must find resources to provide nutrition, and health facilities to those affected,” he asserted.

He warned that Malaria was spreading and its treatment should be scaled up in the impacted areas to avoid epidemics. UNICEF, he said, has extended assistance in this regard and would have to inject more resources into addressing malnutrition needs. “We continue to test the water and check its consumable consistency for the local people in flood-impacted areas. These measures must be scaled up and continued.

“We are supporting the provision of water filters and water purification solutions. In some parts, it’s possible to drill borewells and install hand pumps. In some cases, options are very limited. We plan measures like purified water being supplied as well,” he apprised. He added that the government had released its stock of bed nets, insecticides and other items, whereas UNICEF was also bringing tens of thousands of nets as well. “The government also worked with us to bring medication to control malaria. We have quite good stocks of testing and treating Malaria. We will face a rise in malaria if water stagnation continues. We visited Sohbatpur, Balochistan where water was all over and the deputy commissioner told us that at the moment water was not receding at all,” he shared while discussing the possible looming threat of an outbreak of vector-borne diseases.

He anticipated cholera, malaria and dengue outbreaks in the aforementioned areas. “This natural disaster is affecting the whole community. The support needs to be scaled up. The UN has not received as many global funds for its flash appeal and only 15 per cent of the total pledged amount. We will appeal to donors to pay attention to the call of the UN. We are going to lose more people.

“For UNICEF, our view is that we will have to ask partners to scale up the donations. We are very present on the ground and have access to the affected areas. Our priority is to mobilize resources for flood-affected people,” he said, alluding to the lack of cluster approach shown by the international community. The second major challenge, he continued, was the rehabilitation of the affected population to return to their native areas.

“We will need a long- and short-term strategy including how to increase stockpiles of essential communities, deal with food shortages, expansion of BISP. We must really scale up humanitarian assistance,” he asserted. The UNICEF director underlined that funds had mobilised $40 million for managing humanitarian assistance, therapeutic foods, learning materials, water points and tents, and setting up toilets. “We are looking at how to expedite measures to meet the needs of the flood victims,” George concluded.

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