Pakistan's Forgotten Emergency
Three months after widespread flooding that has affected over 5 million people in southern Pakistan, a critical shortage of funding and broad international disinterest has left millions of people at risk of illness, malnutrition and cold as the winter closes in.
The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), a consortium of 41 international aid agencies based in Pakistan, today appealed to Western governments for urgent donations to tackle this grave yet largely forgotten humanitarian crisis.
A UN appeal for $357 million in emergency funding made more than three months ago has been just 37% funded, according to the UN, with donors saying that difficult economic conditions in their own countries prevents them from giving more. But a crisis of this magnitude cannot be overlooked. The floods have largely affected Sindh province and parts of Balochistan. There, three million children are at risk of severe malnutrition and disease, 160,000 women are pregnant and require immediate healthcare and 44% of the total affected households are in urgent need of shelter assistance.
“After last year’s disastrous floods, which drew a generous outside response, this year’s crisis has been largely ignored”, said Jack Byrne, PHF Chairman. “This is a major crisis by any standards. Local government agencies are overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster and require urgent international help to prevent death, disease and child malnutrition.”
David Wright, Country Director of Save the Children said: “We are seeing incidences of malnutrition of children under five that in some cases surpass those seen in African famines such as the one in Niger last year. We are facing a situation where more children could die from the aftermath of the floods than the floods themselves.”
According to the findings of the Multi-sector Needs Assessment some 4.3 million flood affected people are food insecure, with their plight exacerbated by massive loss of food stocks and damage to standing crops. “Three months into the floods, people are still desperately struggling to meet their basic needs. The approaching winter will further aggravate their suffering,” said Oxfam Country Director Neva Khan. “Hundreds of thousands of farmers will miss this winter cropping season because large swathes of land are still inundated. The sluggish response to the UN appeal has left millions of vulnerable people – women, children the elderly and those with disabilities – at great risk. Their immediate future is grim unless funding is not urgently stepped up.”
Shelter urgently needed
The flood waters are slowly receding. But families returning home are in many cases living in bad or worse sanitation and hygiene conditions as they were in camps for the displaced. CARE has found that with clean water scarce, skin and eye infections are rising, and affected populations are at greater risk due to lack of winterized shelter, poor health facilities and inadequate food. Due to large family sizes in Sindh CARE believes the proportion of children and pregnant and lactating women affected is higher than during the 2010 floods. The shortage of funding has meant that only a fraction of those needing assistance are getting any form of help.
A multi sector joint assessment recently completed by the Pakistani government, UN agencies and international and Pakistani NGOs paints an alarming picture:
- Of the 1.87 million people displaced by the floods in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, 743,000 have yet to return home.
- One third of the area that was initially flooded remains under water. In those communities, 94 percent of housing has been damaged or destroyed, 80 percent of affected people lack access to latrines and 46 % of health facilities are damaged.
- Among affected communities, 43% of people are food insecure (59% female, 33% males). Four-fifths of people urgently need plastic sheeting to construct temporary shelters, and 89 per cent require blankets.
- Almost one fifth of all households report that crucial property deeds and identity documents – government issued Computerized National Identity Cards, particularly – were washed away in the floods. This makes it impossible for them to claim government assistance.
- Meanwhile since the floods prices of staple foods have soared: 25% (rice), 12% (wheat), 44% (potatoes), 57% (onions).
- So far 485 people have died from this year’s floods. PHF urgently appeals for renewed commitment from the international community to prevent further loss of life and to help flood victims rebuild their lives.
- Photographs can be downloaded from Words & Pictures
- Oxfam documentary showing how floods impact women can be downloaded (broadcast quality) from:
About the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum
INGOs working for disaster response in Pakistan formed an informal network by the name of Northern Areas Earthquake Relief Operation (NAERO), following the 2002 earthquake in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The objective of the network was to coordinate response and rehabilitation activities of INGOs in the affected area. The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum was formed to coordinate and strengthen the efforts of International NGOs working in disaster management. The forum collectively represents INGOs to the Government of Pakistan, United Nations, and the larger humanitarian community, including the National Humanitarian Network of Pakistani NGOs and Community-Based Organizations. Since its formation various INGOs have acted as Chair of the PHF, the main responsibilities being to coordinate communication among members, participate at meetings, and lead PHF advocacy initiatives. The PHF is currently chaired by CRS. The current and immediate past chair of PHF sit on the Humanitarian Country Team, the Policy and Strategy Meetings in Peshawar, the Emergency Relief Fund Advisory and Review Boards, and the Pakistan Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Country Team, a coordination mechanism constituted by UN agencies, the Red Cross Movement, and international NGOs. There are 41 member organizations of the PHF. 11 organizations participate at PHF meetings as observers.