23 August 2010 The massive floods in Pakistan have spread to the southern province of Sindh, where hundreds of thousands of people are on the move after evacuating their inundated villages, a United Nations official said today, as humanitarian agencies continued to deliver relief supplies to millions of those affected.
“The situation in Sindh is of high concern. The water now is in Sindh and entire cities have been evacuated,” said Maurizio Giuliano, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in an interview with UN Radio.
“We have hundreds of thousands of people on the move [and] if we are not able to reach all those in need fast enough, there may be a spread of waterborne diseases and, of course, food shortages and lack of shelter will not contribute to improving the situation of those in need,” he added.
Evacuations have been reported from low-lying areas of Hyderabad as the second wave of flooding moved southwards, according to OCHA. Large parts of Jacobabad district were also evacuated during the weekend, Mr. Giuliano said.
“We’ll only be able to know in the coming days how many people have been affected [in Sindh],” Mr. Giuliano added.
The floods, which began late last month in the wake of particularly heavy monsoon rains, have so far claimed 1,200 lives and destroyed homes, farmland and major infrastructure in large parts of the country. According to Government estimates, 15.4 million people are affected, with at least 6 million of them in need of food, shelter, clean water and health care.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that it requires at least 40 more heavy-lift helicopters to boost its efforts to deliver relief to large numbers of people who remain in inaccessible areas as a result of roads and bridges being washed away by the floods. The agency brought in three of an expected five additional helicopters into the country yesterday.
“We need more of these life-savers,” said WFP Pakistan Country Director Wolfgang Herbinger. “Helicopters are the only way to deliver supplies into many areas which is why we’re already using every aircraft currently available to us,” he added. WFP has to date reached about 1.3 million people with a one-month emergency rations of food.
Meanwhile, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the number of cases of diseases was on the rise. The agency said that so far, more than 200,000 of acute diarrhoea, at least 260,000 cases of skin diseases and more than 200,000 cases of acute respiratory diseases have been reported in flood-affected provinces.
In a related development, the head of the UN Telecommunications Union (ITU), Hamadoun Touré, today sent out an appeal for contributions to assist those affected by the floods in Pakistan.
Mr. Touré said ITU’s emergency telecommunications team is working with the Government of Pakistan to rehabilitate the telecommunication infrastructure, which has been disabled by the floods.
“The whole world is in deep shock as this tragedy continues to unfold,” said Mr. Touré, the ITU Secretary-General. “ITU stands in utmost solidarity with the people of Pakistan in their hour of need and I join UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in urging our stakeholders to respond generously to meet the urgent demand for relief and rehabilitation efforts.”
News Tracker: past stories on this issue