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Floods swallow more of Pakistan

The surge of flood waters along the Indus River continues to swallow up more and more land in Pakistan. In the southern province of Sindh, over half-a-million people have been told to evacuate their homes as the waters threaten further devastation across towns and villages.

Now there is concern about Hyderbad, Pakistan’s sixth largest city. Currently the Kotri Barrage flood defence system is holding. But with water levels in the Indus River 10 times higher than normal, there are worries the water could break through and flood the city, which is home to two million people.

As villages continue to be submerged in Sindh province, many Pakistanis are reluctant to leave the patches of high land where they have sought safety, preferring to remain near their homes with any livestock and belongings they have managed to salvage. The Pakistani air force continues to fly over the region, dropping 20 kilo waterproof bags with rations of milk, water, dates and biscuits, enough to last a family for two or three days.

But there is not enough food for all the families who need it. The BBC found a large group of people from the submerged village of Munarkee near Thatta, who are living along the road side. One mother, called Rubina, had newly given birth here to a baby boy she’d named Sarang ("the musical one"). Exposed to the sun, the newborn had already developed a fever and Rubina’s three-year-old daughter, Benazir, was also sick. But with no medicine and little food – Rubina had a few biscuits – she was simply waiting, with little expectation of help, until the waters recede and she could return to her village.

Even when villagers do return to their homes, they are often faced with complete devastation. In the southern province of Punjab, around 750,000 people fled towns and villages around the city of Muzaffargarh. Two weeks later, they are returning to find piles of debris where their homes used to be.

Many schools have also been destroyed. Even where school buildings remain, they are often being utilised to shelter the homeless. One thirteen-year-old boy, Saleem Shahid, could be found searching through the destroyed belongings of his house to find his text books and pencils, in the hope he might be able to return to school. But his father, who lost all his maize and vegetable crops and his two cows, thinks it unlikely they will be able to afford to send Saleem back to school.

Save the Children estimates that across the country over 5,500 schools have been damaged or requisitioned for shelter. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) believes this will affect around 1.6 million children. UNICEF has drawn up a six-month plan to try and address the needs for schooling, initially by creating temporary classroom space in the camps. Learning and recreational kits are also being provided by relief workers.

Rebuilding the educational infrastructure when the waters finally recede is going to be one of many daunting tasks facing Pakistan, whose economy was already struggling. Officials are in talks with the International Monetary Fund about easing conditions on an existing 11 billion dollar IMF loan program. Under an IMF facility for countries hit by disasters, Pakistan could also receive 1 billion dollars in IMF funds. The country will need all the financial assistance it can find, when total costs for rebuilding could be as high as 15 billion dollars.

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