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Millions of Pakistanis struggle to survive as flood crisis continues

By Oxfam

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Six months after floods devastated Sindh and parts of Balochistan province, millions of Pakistanis still need help to survive, international and national aid organizations warned today. The coalition of agencies also said that a lackluster response from the international funders is seriously threatening flood-hit communities' chances of coping with the next monsoon season and called on the Pakistani government to boost its efforts to limit the impact of future disasters.

“Communities hit by the floods are enduring an exceptionally tough time, and the lukewarm response to the crisis isn’t helping. With funds drying up, millions will find it extremely hard to make it through the next few months. Donors and the government of Pakistan must step up their response immediately,” said Neva Khan, Oxfam’s Country Director in Pakistan.

In a report titled Pakistan floods emergency – Lessons from a continuing disaster, the organizations said that the combined efforts of Pakistani officials, donors, UN agencies, NGOs, Pakistanis citizens, and affected communities themselves had saved thousands of lives and provided vital assistance to millions of people. However, at least 2.5 million people are still living without basics such as food, water, shelter, sanitation, and healthcare, which has put them at serious risk of malnutrition, disease, and deepening poverty.

“The needs of the communities affected by the floods are still enormous with women, children, the elderly and disabled particularly vulnerable. The humanitarian community should continue to provide assistance so that flood-affected families not only meet their basic needs but can rebuild their lives,” said Áine Fay, Country Director for Concern Worldwide and Chair for Pakistan Humanitarian Forum.

The organizations said that long-term support is needed to ensure recovery of the affected communities. “People are still at risk with tens of thousands still displaced in the flood-affected areas while many have returned home to little or nothing. Communities must be strengthened and further funding is needed to assist them to restore their livelihoods and rebuild their lives,” said Lynn Hastings, Head of Office for OCHA Pakistan.

“Six months on, the crisis seems to have been forgotten by the international community,” said Naseer Memon, Chief Executive of Strengthening Participatory Organization. The 2011 Floods Rapid Response Plan launched by the UN on September 18 sought $357 million but remains less than 50 percent funded. A few donors, notably the European Commission and the United States, have responded generously, but the response from many others has been disappointing.

An estimated 43 percent of affected people are severely short of food. The organizations fear that this will increase malnutrition levels, which were already well above the emergency threshold in Sindh and Balochistan before the floods struck.

“Rates of malnutrition among women and children in the flood-affected districts continue to be at alarming levels. The floods have exposed and deepened a food crisis in Sindh that has resulted in malnutrition rates far worse than those in Sub-Saharan Africa," said David Wright, Country Director for Save the Children.

The floods have devastated local agriculture and hundreds of thousands of farmers are struggling to recover. One in four farmers missed the last planting season in November-December, either because their land was still submerged or they did not receive help in time. The April farming season is likely to be missed by many farmers too unless immediate action is taken to rehabilitate the fields and distribute seeds and tools required for farming. The organizations warned that the next disaster may be just a few months away and called on the government to intensify efforts to limit the impact of future disasters.

“Each flood, drought, and earthquake that Pakistan suffers pushes people even deeper into poverty and destitution. Pakistan must immediately strengthen its ability to deal with future disasters or the gains made though developments efforts would be lost year after year,” said Dr Fayaz Ahmad, Country Director for Islamic Relief Pakistan.