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Food supplies for Pakistan are running out

In September the United Nations (UN) launched its largest ever emergency appeal to raise 2 billion dollars for the victims of the floods in Pakistan. The international community pledged 1.7 billion in response, but so far only 780 million dollars has been provided. The humanitarian co-ordinator for the UN has warned that if further money is not forthcoming, emergency food aid will run out by the beginning of December.

Around six million people are currently being supplied with food every month through international agencies and the Pakistani government. Even then, a senior Red Cross official warns this leaves hundreds of thousands, if not millions, without any aid at all. Pascal Cuttat, head of the Pakistan delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) points to the huge geographic scale of the disaster, which makes it impossible for agencies and response teams to reach all the people in need.

The UN estimates there are 7 million Pakistanis requiring emergency shelter and up to 10 million who need food supplies. And these figures are only ‘best estimates’, since it is impossible to visit all the remote areas hit by the floods and count the people affected. Even though the huge operation run by the Pakistani military and humanitarian organisations has been “quite good”, Mr Cuttat warns there are still many who have received “absolutely nothing”.

This assessment is borne out by the BBC’s reporter Orla Guerin, who visited the southern province of Sindh this week, one of the poorest provinces of Pakistan. Stagnant water still covers huge swathes of low-lying land throughout the province and people living in cut-off villages are in desperate need of emergency food. The reporter spoke to one father of six, Liaqat Babar, who was waiting in a queue for UN handouts in the town of Daur. He has received nothing so far and says every day his children “are crying for food”. The UN’s single helicopter can only deliver 250-300 rations each trip and the queue contained three or four times that number of people. Liaqat received nothing that day.

Aid workers report that the number of malnutrition cases among children in Sindh is now “alarmingly high”. Orla Guerin found many of these young victims at the hospital in Sukkur. One grandmother was sitting with her six-month old grandson, Ali Nawaz, who was severely undernourished and suffering from pneumonia after sleeping outside. Another mother, who had lost her 18-month old daughter, summed up the situation in Sindh - “we are dying from hunger. Our only hope is in God.” Aid agencies are doing all they can to help the huge numbers of desperate people, but Pascal Cuttat of ICRC admits “the task is monumental”.

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