UN agencies scaling up assistance to flood-affected Pakistanis

Flood-affected people have received from WFP specialised nutritious food for children such as Wawa Mum, a chick-pea paste made in Pakistan

16 September 2011 – United Nations agencies are scaling up their assistance to flood-affected people in Pakistan, where more than five million people are urgent need of food, shelter, safe water and access to health services.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some 5.5 million people have been affected so far by the flooding, which has also resulted in over 230 deaths, damage or destruction to 1.1 million homes and inundation of 4.5 million acres of land.

Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA’s spokesperson in Geneva, told reporters that resource mobilization is currently a major constraint and organizations are using contingency stocks and diverting resources from early recovery programmes to meet life-saving needs.

The UN is currently finalizing its emergency response plan, to be launched early next week and reviewed against evolving needs and more in-depth evaluations in a month’s time, she added.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP), which is providing food aid to 1.4 million people still recovering from last year’s devastating floods, is increasing life-saving food assistance to parts of Sindh province that have been hit the worst by the latest floods.

WFP has distributed food to 15,300 people in the most-affected districts, notably Badin, the agency’s spokesperson in Geneva, Christiane Berthiaume, told reporters. The one-month rations include high-energy biscuits and specialised nutritious food for children such as Wawa Mum, a chick-pea paste made in Pakistan.

The agency is aiming to provide emergency assistance to about half a million people by the end of the month and planned to scale up deliveries to reach 2.2 million by October. In addition to food distributions, WFP is providing logistical support to the humanitarian community amid the considerable damage to infrastructure caused by heavy rains.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is rushing reproductive health supplies to Sindh given the disruption to services in various health facilities. The agency estimates that at least 1.2 million women of reproductive age are among the 5 million people affected by the heavy monsoon rains and floods. At least 115,000 are pregnant.

Among the major concerns is that women who were already severely anaemic will be even more prone to complications of pregnancy and delivery, the agency said in a news release. Also, with the continuing rains and stagnating water, pregnant women and newborns living in open air are increasingly exposed to malaria and dengue.

UNFPA has dispatched supplies to cover the reproductive health needs of 600,000 people for one month in Sindh, and is moving 25 mobile service units to seven of the hardest-hit districts in the province. The vehicles are equipped to provide primary health care, basic emergency obstetric care and services responding to gender-based violence.

“UNFPA ensures that women are able to deliver safely even in times of disaster. While our role remains the same whether in emergency, early recovery or development, in a humanitarian crisis our work becomes even more urgent as the vulnerability of women and girls is increased,” said Rabbi Royan, the agency’s country representative in Pakistan.

Tarek Jasarevic, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), told a news conference in Geneva that the agency and its partners had conducted a rapid health assessment in the 22 affected districts of Sindh to identify the health services available to the population as well as existing gaps.

The assessment found that 224 out of 839 health facilities in the affected areas were inaccessible, submerged by flood water or damaged, accounting for 33 per cent of all basic health units and 11 per cent of all rural health centres. Supplies of essential medicines were adequate thanks to pre-positioned buffer stocks which had been available at very short notice.

However, if these stocks were not replenished, acute shortages of vaccines, medicines and consumables would occur, Mr. Jasarevic warned.

Some 2.7 million of the total number of people affected are children, including 760,000 children below the age of five, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The agency is delivering safe water, sanitation and health supplies, such as vaccines and medicines, to ward off disease. Over the coming days it will be scaling up efforts to reach much larger numbers of children in the worst-affected areas.


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