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Aid Agencies continue to issue warnings about situation in Pakistan

Last week, the head of the International Red Cross (IRC) spoke of the continuing food insecurity in large areas of Pakistan devastated by the floods.

Thousands of hectares of crops in the food-growing regions of Sindh and Punjab were destroyed and some fields still remain under water. Tadateru Konoe of the IRC spoke to Reuters and warned that the lack of sufficient food and rising prices could destabilise the region, and may lead to the kind of unrest seen in the Arab countries. 

The United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) also reports that while many Pakistanis have been able to resume something like their former lives in the north and centre of the country, recovery in the southern province of Sindh and in areas of Balochistan is slow. Hundreds of thousands of flood victims are still living in temporary camps or shelters (one estimate puts the number at 600,000) and many thousands more are living in squalid conditions in their home villages, often surrounded by fields of stagnant water. The WFP is continuing to provide emergency food packages to affected villages, particularly those along the Indus River. The organisation is also supporting the rebuilding of communities, by providing food and cash to those who repair roads, bridges and irrigation ditches, as well as targeted food assistance such as school meals and nutrition programmes for mothers and young children.

But even with all the assistance from the various agencies, many communities are still desperate for further help. The BBC’s reporter, Orla Guerin, has been making regular visits to Sindh province and last month travelled once more to some of the remote parts. In one area, she found a community of around 5,000 living in straw huts along an embankment. Mothers were bringing their children to be weighed by a team from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), where medical workers described the condition of many malnourished children as “shockingly bad”. Parents expressed their fears over how their families would survive over the coming months, particularly with the next monsoon season due to start in July.

The stress of such uncertainty causes even more suffering. According to a recent Psychological Assessment Report published by Save the Children, the needs of children are severely compromised when their parents experience high levels of stress. A study was conducted to highlight the psychological and behavioural problems suffered by children after the floods. After assessing 120 children, Save the Children found that nearly 90 per cent had feelings of aggression and around three quarters showed lack of expression, shyness, problems with adjusting or insecurities and fears to do with water, people, open places and darkness. According to the report, youngsters have not only been affected by “their personal experience of the flood and subsequent losses, but also greatly because of the attitudes of people and commotion surrounding their environment”. The charity has set up ‘Child Friendly Spaces’ for children living in camps to provide a sense of security and normalcy. These safe areas also run activities such as art therapy, play and group counselling and so far, over 130,000 children have benefitted. With the needs of children so great in the country, the charity calls on the international community to continue its support in Pakistan and help “transform this disaster into a catalyst for change”.

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