Islamabad, PAKISTAN, September 1, 2010—More than one month after the flooding in Pakistan began, World Vision says the emergency in Pakistan will get worse before it gets better. Up to half of the affected population still hasn’t been reached. Unsanitary conditions and a lack of clean water are causing outbreaks of diarrhea and concerns about cholera. Children, wearing the same muddy clothes for days, are developing skin diseases like scabies, and many families are unable to begin the grieving process and bury their dead because there is no dry land on which to bury them.
“What we hear from the people living in the camps is that they are hanging on, surviving on what little food and water they receive, wearing the clothes they escaped the floods in, and trying to keep their children and livestock alive,” said Mike Bailey, World Vision’s regional advocacy manager. “The truth is that, despite the amount of aid that has already been provided in some places, many people are in worse shape now than they were two weeks ago.”
The international humanitarian organization says that access to the hardest-hit areas remains one of the biggest challenges in this disaster. Some towns, including those in Punjab, are still inaccessible, more than four weeks after the flooding began. The floods have significantly damaged roads and bridges. Communication is difficult due to damaged telephone lines; mobile phone networks are still not functioning in many of the worst-affected areas.
“It’s still difficult to assess the full extent of the damage, but we know that children and families are still in desperate need of the most basic things like food, clean water, and shelter,” said Bailey. “Even when we focus on providing the most urgently-needed relief supplies, we’ve still been able to reach just one-tenth of the people we’re trying to help in the next three months.”
Food and water: Many markets have been destroyed and food is generally not available. Some 3.2 million hectares of agricultural land have been flooded. Food scarcity is expected in coming days and months. The need is greater than available resources. The main water sources in the area are dug wells, hand pumps and a few tube wells. However, wells have become contaminated and the water is no longer safe to drink. People can live on small amounts of food, but they can’t survive without potable water.
Shelter: Many displaced families are without shelter. Others have found temporary shelter with friends and relatives, but overcrowding is making water, food and sanitation even scarcer. Many schools (private and public) are now serving as temporary shelters.
Health and sanitation: Some clinics in the area have been washed away, and medical staff and medicine are scarce. Children and families are suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, malaria and acute respiratory infections. There is risk of cholera outbreaks and spread of other waterborne diseases. Even before the flooding, families generally did not have proper toilets in their homes. Since the flooding, human waste has been mixed with drinking water. In addition, water is sitting stagnant in many places, increasing the risk of disease.
Infrastructure: The road networks in the area need to be rebuilt. Many isolated communities are depending on items ferried in by helicopter to survive. Power is out in some areas.
Livelihoods: Most people are farmers, earning a living from crops and livestock. Now, 3.2 million hectares of crops have been damaged. Irrigation systems are also damaged or need vast clean-up work.