Six months later, Pakistan's flood disaster threatens to worsen

By mhart

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The crisis in Pakistan is far from over and could get worse, international aid organization Oxfam warned today, six months after the nation’s devastating floods.

In a report, Six months into the floods, Oxfam warns that millions of people are still in dire need and that the situation could deteriorate further. According to the report, although the aid effort has reached millions, it has struggled to match the immense scale of human need.

The report says that although Pakistan’s floods are the biggest emergency of recent times with more than 20 million people affected, the funding for the response has been woefully slow. The UN appeal for $2 billion to rebuild Pakistan remains only 56 percent funded.

Six months after the rains, hundreds of thousands remain in camps and thousands are living in tents beside their destroyed homes. Sub-zero winter temperatures have increased the incidence of chest infections including influenza and pneumonia, with over 200,000 cases reported in the second week of January alone. In the south, swathes of land – both homesteads and agricultural – remain under contaminated water, and Oxfam is concerned that already worrying pre-flood malnutrition rates have risen.   

Neva Khan, head of Oxfam in Pakistan, said:

“Six months later, millions of people are still facing flood water, shivering in temporary shelters, and struggling to find food. Oxfam is currently helping nearly 1.9 million people – one of our biggest programs worldwide – but this is dwarfed by the number of people who are in need. The aid community has done a tremendous amount – but given the immense scale of this disaster, we have only scratched the surface of human need.” 

Oxfam asks the government of Pakistan to extend the emergency period until peoples’ needs are met. The Pakistan government is due to stop emergency relief operations in most areas on January 31, 2011, but Oxfam warned that this could put at risk large numbers of people who still need assistance. 

Oxfam urges the Pakistan government and the international community to learn the lessons of this disaster and seize the chance to re-build Pakistan better, specifically by providing land for landless labourers, providing better facilities for girls in schools, and investing more in disaster management down to the local level. Many landless farmers are scared to go home due to debts owed to their landlords, often for the crops that were washed away in the flood.

Khan said:

“Pakistan could salvage a new beginning from the debris of this disaster. If the country invests in disaster risk reduction, then the devastation wrought by this disaster could be consigned to history. With bold steps – like redistributing land – a fairer and stronger country could emerge. We must seize this chance to address the causes of inequality and poverty to build back a better and more resilient Pakistan.” 

Oxfam also warns that action is needed now to prevent a secondary food crisis. Agriculture was particularly hard hit in the flood with more than 2.2 million hectares of crops lost. Most farmers missed the last planting season in November, some because their land was still underwater, but others because they did not get seeds and other agricultural supplies in time. The April farming season is likely to be missed unless urgent action is taken now to rehabilitate the fields that can be planted and distribute seeds and tools to farmers. 

Oxfam also said that a disaster-prone state like Pakistan should have been better prepared to deliver an adequate and timely response, and criticized the aid community for focusing on Khyber Pakhtunkwa province in the north, at the expense of Sindh province in the south. Oxfam was in Sindh province from the outset, but many aid organizations did not extend their coverage there until two to three months later.

Notes to Editors:

1. The United States has committed $671,457,824, 30.6 percent of the total committed to Pakistan. For a full report on the funding appeal, visit: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/fts.nsf/doc105?OpenForm&rc=3&emid=FL-2010-000141-PAK.

2. Oxfam is currently helping nearly 1.9 million people affected by the disaster. Oxfam’s emergency response includes the provision of safe drinking water, adequate sanitation facilities, including sanitation kits and hygiene supplies, as well as emergency shelter kits, cash grants, and livelihoods support. Oxfam is assisting people in three provinces of Pakistan Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh. Click here for a media brief detailing Oxfam's response in Pakistan.

3. Click here to download the full report, Six months into the floods.

4. For access to high-resolution photographs and broadcast quality footage cleared for unlimited use by all forms of electronic media, visit: http://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=8367&k=ae241318d4.