A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Farmland still under water; malnutrition and disease rates rise; seven million face winter without shelter
Three months after floods devastated Pakistan, cases of disease are increasing and in the worst-hit region, the southern province of Sindh, large areas remain underwater. At the same time, warned the international aid agency, Oxfam, funds for the UN flood appeal are drying up and threatening the aid and reconstruction effort. As winter approaches, seven million people are still without adequate shelter.
Oxfam called on the donor community to fund Pakistan generously in its time of need, help the emergency response in the south, as well as recovery work across all flood-affected areas.
In the most affected region, Sindh, more than a million people are displaced, their homes damaged or destroyed. Tens of thousands of families, who had sheltered in schools and other buildings, are now being newly-displaced as schools re-open. Large areas of land are still under water and some communities remain surrounded by flood waters. Many farmers will not be able to plant winter crops. Government officials say some of the worst-affected areas could take up to six months to dry out.
“The crisis is far from over. Parts of southern Sindh, the worst-hit area, still remain a disaster zone. When the world’s attention was focused on Pakistan’s flood victims there was a chance of seeing substantial aid being delivered. But as the worst of the flood waters have receded so has the promise of significant funding,” said Neva Khan, Oxfam’s director in Pakistan. “The UN emergency appeal is less than 40 per cent funded. Many of the world’s richest countries are failing the flood victims, who are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.”
Food, shelter and nutrition are of particular concern.
According to the United Nations, 10 million people are in need of immediate food assistance. The funding shortfall is so serious that existing regular food rations to 3.5 million people could be in jeopardy.
Across the country nearly two million homes are damaged or destroyed and seven million people do not have adequate shelter. With winter a few weeks away, there are fears that malnutrition rates, pneumonia and other respiratory infections will sharply increase.
There have already been 99 confirmed cases of cholera since the start of the floods and 78 cases of polio were reported this month, up 26 per cent from last year – a dramatic increase when the disease is close to eradication worldwide.
At the same time the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning it will have to drastically reduce surveillance staff numbers at five of its hubs in flood affected areas in November and possibly close down the operations altogether early next year unless it urgently receives extra funds.
Other UN agencies face similar problems. The World Food Program (WFP) faces a $70 million shortfall and will have to start cutting food rations from November. Funding for programs next year remains uncertain.
Oxfam says the initial aid effort has helped to save lives and begun to address urgent needs. But the agency warns that gains made could be undermined because of the funding crisis. While the response from some donors and the public has been generous, the UN’s Pakistan flood appeal for just over $2 billion, is only 38 per cent funded.
In some flood-hit areas, Oxfam has already started early recovery work to help communities rebuild their lives and homes. But emergency work is still taking place in Sindh, where families may not be able to move back home for several months.
Oxfam and its partners are currently helping more than 1.2 million people in Pakistan, providing water and sanitation, distributing hygiene and shelter kits and cash vouchers so that families can purchase basic food items. Early recovery work includes cash-for work programs to help people begin to earn a living and clean up their damaged homes and communities; and distributing seeds and fertilisers in areas where farmers can replant.
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Notes to editors
A total of $1.7b has been committed to the humanitarian aid effort. This includes contributions both inside and outside the UN appeal. This is just over $40 per flood affected person. After the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, commitments in the first month alone amounted to $570 per person affected.
Photos & broadcast quality footage available here: http://www.4shared.com/dir/J7PU0hx8/Sindh_floods_3_months_on.html
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In Pakistan: humanitarian press officer Caroline Gluck,
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