Over 200 people are now reported to have died and more than 5 million people have been hit by the floods across Sindh province, with around 2.5 million children among those affected. The United Nations (UN) also estimates nearly 1 million homes have been destroyed and over 4 million acres of land lies submerged. Forced from their inundated homes and villages, Pakistanis are taking shelter along banks or moving to camps set up by the government.
Once again, the floodwaters have swept away crops and the livelihood of many families. Harvests of cotton, sugar cane, rice and vegetables have been destroyed and many families have also lost their homes and possessions. With some areas cut off as flood waters make roads impassable, helicopters have been deployed to take food and water to stranded communities. State officials expect to receive help from central government to pay for the emergency operations. But as yet it is unclear how much funding will be found by Pakistan’s cash-strapped government.
With further rain forecast, international agencies have joined the relief efforts. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has been distributing food rations in the Badin region. Initial supplies will provide half a million people with one-month’s worth of rations. The WFP began the distribution after receiving a request from the Disaster Management Authorities in Sindh Province. They alerted the agency to the pressing needs of communities in Badin. Areas of Mirpurkhas and Nawab Shah have also been badly affected. And in Karachi, thousands have been displaced and many schools and markets forced to close.
The WFP hopes to raise additional funds over the coming months to provide further support across the region as the ongoing needs are assessed. Though the area of flooding is not as large countrywide as in 2010, officials in Sindh province say this year’s floods could bring as much devastation as last year. Relief agencies are again worried about the health of people in the region, many still vulnerable after last year’s disaster. The UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) has also warned of the high risk to children from water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera.
The WFP’s Acting Country Director has described the situation on the ground as “dire” and described the distribution of supplies as “a matter of life and death”. One man who had received a month’s rations said he was extremely grateful that he could at least stop “worrying about food for [his] family” and begin “thinking about other things”.