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Flood victims in Pakistan still need urgent support

The United Nations (UN) this week highlighted the ongoing emergency in Pakistan, where at least 2.5 million people require help six months after floods left devastation across the south.

Speaking to Alertnet, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that 440 million dollars was needed to fund shelter items, clean water and healthcare services, as millions of Pakistanis across Sindh and Baluchistan provinces struggle to rebuild their lives.

The OCHA head has warned that “there are very significant needs...still outstanding”. Many families remain desperate for better shelter, living under tarpaulin sheets or in makeshift shelters. While most people have returned to their home regions, even when they had nothing to go back to, between 60-70,000 people remain displaced. This is because around a tenth of Sindh province remains underwater.

The floods of 2011 came on top of the flooding in 2010. UN officials estimate that over a third of those affected in 2011 were already suffering as a consequence of the 2010 disaster. And aid money has been slow to materialise. A UN appeal for 356 million pounds last year only raised half that amount. Humanitarian agencies working in Pakistan are also suffering from shortfalls in the necessary funding and have spoken of scaling back on emergency help.

This is particularly worrying, when agencies are seeing firsthand the acute needs of people across Sindh and Baluchistan. A Save the Children spokesman told Alertnet “rates of malnutrition among women and children in flood-affected districts continue to be at alarming levels”. The areas were already experiencing a food crisis, but the flooding has driven levels of malnutrition to even higher rates, worse than in most sub-Saharan regions.

Humanitarian groups are also concerned about the growing exploitation of the poor. Incidents of bonded labour, sexual abuse and human trafficking are rising, as hunger and poverty drive people towards desperate measures to survive. Many Pakistanis express little hope their situation will improve in the future. Aid agencies are calling on the Pakistani government to step up efforts in responding to the crisis and improve disaster management. The agencies also want to see reforms which will tackle social inequality, such as land rights. But before any political or long-term changes can take place, further emergency assistance is needed in the short term, to help families rebuild homes and replant crops. Otherwise, many desperate people will continue to live in despair.

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