The floods inundated huge areas of Pakistan’s Sindh province, leaving many schools damaged or destroyed. The UN’s child agency, UNICEF, along with other partners, has helped to set up over 400 temporary learning centres in the province (as well as over 300 in the flood-affected areas of Balochistan and Punjab). This has allowed many youngsters to return to school though classrooms are often extremely crowded.
In the Kashmore district, one such temporary school has been created in Kandhkot. One thirteen-year old attending this school is Rukhsar. Her family home was destroyed in the 2010 floods and in 2012, they had to evacuate again and shelter in a nearby town until the waters receded. Rukhsar’s brothers were sent away to carry on their education, but the resumption of her own studies had to wait for the setting-up of the new centre. “It’s a relief to be in school once again,” the youngster told the UN.
In nearby Tangwani, another temporary school is allowing around 60 pupils aged between 5 and 10 to continue with their education. One of the mothers explained “I want my children to have a secure and carefree future”. However, she expressed other ongoing worries about life after the floods, such as having to use unsafe water and said “I hope my children never suffer from any illness”.
As well as being at risk from water-borne diseases, children in Sindh Province are vulnerable to common childhood illnesses such as measles. Due to the difficulties caused by the flooding over the last three years, the World Health Organisation estimates that over half of children in the province have not completed immunisation programmes. So while children may have received an initial dose of the measles vaccine which gives 60-70% immunity, many have not been given the second dose which provides 95% immunity.
Over the past year, over 200 children have died of measles in Sindh Province and there are likely to have been many more unreported deaths from the disease. The health minister of the province told the news agency IRIN in January, that an aggressive immunisation campaign had been launched, which would target 2.9 million children aged from nine months to 10 years. But with poor health facilities in many parts, raising levels of vaccination across Sindh remains a huge challenge.