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Misery continues in Pakistan

Reports from Pakistan suggest hundreds of thousands have yet to receive any assistance in the flood-hit areas of the country.

To address the growing crisis, last week the United Nations (UN) appealed for 357 million dollars to help over 5 million Pakistanis left destitute by another disastrous monsoon season. Earlier requests from the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) are included in this larger appeal. The money will be used to supply food, water and emergency shelters, as well as sanitation and healthcare services over the next six months in Sindh and Balochistan provinces. The UN’s aid chief, Valerie Amos, said “the people of Pakistan are in desperate need again. We cannot let them down.”

The World Food Programme (WFP) believes 3 million people require emergency food rations. The floods have destroyed more than two-thirds of stored food and over 70 per cent of crops have been lost across Sindh province. Even before this year’s heavy rains, agencies were warning that families in the region would need three or four good harvest seasons to recover. The floods of 2010 also killed nearly 78,000 animals in Sindh and families had yet to rebuild their livestock. Now, another heavy monsoon season has brought fresh devastation, leaving an already malnourished population with nothing once again.

The BBC’s correspondent in Sindh reports that relief workers are struggling to reach all those affected. A spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority said that this was partly due to a lack of manpower, since aid delivery workers were themselves stranded or displaced by the floods. The military has been drafted in to help, but reports suggest there is a lack of co-ordination. However, the logistical challenges are huge, with immense areas lying under water and many thousands living in small remote groups along stretches of high ground.

Some observers describe the whole situation in southern Sindh as “depressing” and cannot believe that such misery is happening all over again. A lack of proper flood defences has allowed the disaster to occur for a second year running and Pakistanis blame officials for their neglect and incompetence. Ordinary people also speak about a culture of corruption and carelessness over the suffering of the poor. One man summed up the situation to the BBC on the lack of state assistance for the people of Sindh, saying “people from here are the poorest in Pakistan....if a poor child dies, who will care?”

Meanwhile, the Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan has called on the UK government to cut its annual aid payments (through the Department for International Development) to his country. The former cricketer told the BBC “if we don’t have aid, we will be forced to make reforms and stand on our own two feet”.

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