Heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan from mid-June to September last year resulted in flash floods and standing water across Pakistan, causing human and livestock casualties as well as widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure.
While the floodwaters have receded in many areas, large parts of Sindh and eastern Balochistan remain underwater and will likely remain so for several months to come. The standing floodwater and secondary impacts are resulting in an increase in water-borne diseases, unsanitary conditions, and rising malnutrition rates.
At the same time, water infrastructure has incurred significant damage and the flood-affected health system is impaired in addressing and mitigating the risk of a major public health crisis.
Concurrently, with the onset of winter, the affected population — both displaced and otherwise — requires assistance to prepare for the cold weather. The number of damaged and destroyed houses in Pakistan now exceeds 2 million, with more than 1.2 million houses damaged and more than 805,000 houses destroyed as of September.
The National Disaster Management Authority has recorded more than 1600 deaths and more than 12,850 injuries since mid-June, including 579 children killed and more than 4000 children injured. Some 7.9 million people are reportedly displaced due to the heavy rains and floods, including some 598,000 people who are living in relief camps, according to reports by the respective Provincial Disaster Management Authority of the affected provinces.
Reports indicate that more than 5000 schools are currently being used to host displaced populations, while an estimated 23,900 schools have been damaged. Cases of diarrhea, typhoid and malaria are a growing concern, with many people living in unsanitary conditions in temporary shelters, often with only limited access to basic services.
Initial reports of outbreaks of vector-borne and waterborne diseases have been received from parts of Balochistan and Sindh. Pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of five represent the most vulnerable at-risk groups, with estimates indicating that at least 83,000 flood-affected women are pregnant and due to give birth in the coming months.
Assessments indicate that about 1460 health facilities and their contents are damaged, further limiting people's access to health services, while damage to 349 refrigerators and solar direct drive systems have reportedly resulted in disrupted vaccine cold chains.
The following areas need immediate relief response:
Food Security and Agriculture Needs:
• Targeted unconditional food assistance for the most vulnerable households.
• Conditional food/cash assistance to rehabilitate or create the infrastructure necessary for specific livelihood activities (e.g. irrigation channels, fishing boats, rural roads) or community services (e.g.,health facilities).
• Cash and voucher assistance (CVA) for restoration of livelihood opportunities, including livelihood diversification activities (training on alternative income-generating activities).
• Protection of remaining livestock through provision of feed and vaccinations against Peste des petits ruminants, foot-and-mouth disease and haemorrhagic septicaemia.
• Provision of seeds and fertilizers for cultivation of important vegetable crops and support for the restoration of affected cropped areas and livelihoods ahead of the upcoming agriculture cropping season.
• Rehabilitation of damaged animal shelters and rehabilitation and desilting of critical sections of irrigation channels.
• Early recovery and resilient restoration of health services.
• Essential medicines and equipment to set up emergency triage, including medical tents, mosquito nets, beds, facemasks and hand sanitizers outside health facilities.
• Mitigation of the risk of outbreaks of communicable/infectious diseases, particularly in camps and where washing facilities have been damaged.
• Prevention of transmission of diseases in camps and communities through information and hygiene campaigns.
The Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, Labour Education Foundation and Crofter Foundation call on the international community for consolidated efforts of relief and rehabilitation in Pakistan.
Our relief efforts
The Labour Education Foundation, a member organisation of Labour Relief Campaign through its countrywide network collected data of daily-wagers, labourers, peasants (haris) and home-based workers belonging to the flood-hit districts and after consultations with representatives from the affected areas planned urgent interventions to counter the developing humanitarian crisis through whatever means available at hand.
Larkana, Shikarpur and Khairpur districts were selected from Sindh province, Qila Abdullah from Balochistan, Dera Ghazi Khan from South Punjab, and Charsadda and Mardan districts from KP province for the planned interventions.
These interventions included distribution of cash grants to meet immediate needs, provision of winter bedding and warm clothes in view of the approaching harsh winters, arranging medical camps for treating those flood victims suffering from mosquito-bite and water-borne diseases, provision of fertilizer to the farmers, repairing irrigation channels damaged in the floods and installing solar water-pumps meant for drinking water.
So far cash grants at the rate of Rs 5000 per person have been given to 600 most vulnerable flood victims. The amount was increased to Rs 10,000 for around 156 women victims from Sindh’s Khairpur district as an overwhelming majority of them were widows.
At least 600 people have been given blankets or sets of quilts plus mattresses, while warm clothes and jackets were provided to around 1000 people and children.
To provide healthcare to the victims, so far 11 medical camps, including one for skin diseases, have been organised where disease diagnosis facilities and medicines were also offered free of cost.
A solar water-pump is being installed in Qila Abdullah, while another one is under planning for Shikarpur. An irrigation channel is also being repaired in Shikarpur to benefit around 1000 small farmers.
[Farooq Tariq is General Secretary of the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee.]