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Pakistan floods: International community must do more - and quickly

27 Sep 2011

Mahmood, 80, need shelter, food and land that can be cultivatedThe international community has not been quick to recognise and respond to the current emergency in Pakistan.

A year on from 2010's devastating floods, heavy monsoon rains - with more rain in one month than the usual monsoon season - mean Sindh is once again under water.

Across three provinces 5.44 million people are affected, 1.8 million displaced and as needs assessments continue numbers are likely to increase.

On a recent visit to Badin, one of the worst affected districts of Sindh, we were able to see the devastating effects first hand.

Driving from Karachi the effects become clear very quickly. On either side of the road, fields and villages are submerged.

It is sometimes hard to tell how deep the water is until you see something to measure it against - the top of a tree poking out, or the water level two thirds up the height of a telegraph pole.

Along the road on the high ground people have set up shelters with what little they could salvage when they fled their homes, but there is very little support for these people with limited international aid and the majority of Government assistance going to IDP camps.

Floodwater as far as the eye can see

HelpAge has been providing support to 1,000 affected families since early August, but more support is needed to address the desperate and growing needs. We visited the town of Malkani Sharif. With a population of 15,000 it has yet to receive any international assistance since the flooding began - HelpAge is the first international aid agency to visit.

The road to the town is flooded and can only be passed by foot, donkey cart, or if you're lucky, tractor. Flood water can be seen in all directions as far as the eye can see and much of the infrastructure including the telephone tower and the fresh water pumping station are under four feet of stagnant floodwater which is contaminated with sewage and contains many dead animals. Approximately 57,000 animals died as a result of floods.

Basic needs are not being met

When speaking to people in the town it is clear that even their basic needs are not being met. In the town the shops are flooded and largely shut and the nearest fresh drinking water point is 25km away. People are now resorting to drinking the flood water. A local doctor tells us he is seeing many cases of skin diseases as well as diarrhoea and malaria and the risk of further water borne diseases such as cholera is clear to see.

We spoke to a number of older people in the town who tell us they need food for them and their families, and cash so that they can rebuild their homes and re-establish their incomes.

Many people lived in houses built of mud which were no match for the heavy and continuous rain and their incomes as farmers have been destroyed by the flooded land and loss of livestock.

More support needed to aid recovery

For other older people recovery from the flood will be more difficult. Many of those we met suffer from limited mobility and are reliant on support from their families and the community. One older man was carried to safety on his bed by his neighbours when his house collapsed.

Estimates suggest that the flood water in Badin will not recede for two or three months meaning assistance is needed now, and will be needed for months to come.

The UN has launched an emergency appeal but currently only 3% of the nearly $348 million of assistance needed has been pledged. Without support the flood-affected populations face the risk of further deaths from disease and lack of food, while their prospects for recovery to protect themselves from future emergencies will be minimal.

HelpAge continues to provide assistance to affected families and specific food and medical support for older people but more needs to be done, and done quickly.

If you would like to support our work in Pakistan, pleases donate to our sister organisation Age UK's Pakistan flood appeal. Many thanks.

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Author profile

Marcus Skinner
Country: United Kingdom
Job title: Humanitarian Policy Manager

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