International aid agency Oxfam today warned of a public health catastrophe in flood-hit Pakistan. The aid agency said while funding had stalled in recent weeks, the number of cases of reported disease, number of people displaced, and number of people affected by the floods continues to rise each day.
The initial UN appeal, launched to meet the immediate needs of 6 million Pakistanis, is 67 percent funded, an increase of only ten percent in the past two and a half weeks. During this same period, the number of cases of acute diarrhea, skin diseases, acute respiratory infections, and suspected malaria have more than tripled.
Skin diseases have leapt from 260,000 to 860,000 cases, acute diarrhea has leapt from 200,000 to 610,000 cases, and acute respiratory infections have leapt from 200,000 to 670,000 cases.
The UN appeal was hastily prepared when the floods began and does not reflect current needs. Since it was launched, the number of people affected by the floods has increased from 14 million to 21 million with 10 million displaced and eight million in need of immediate assistance as the floodwaters have flowed south and inundated much of Punjab and Sindh provinces.
Oxfam warned that the two most important areas for disease prevention and treatment are the least funded. Just 30 percent of the money needed for water and sanitation and 50 percent for health have been received.
Neva Khan, head of Oxfam in Pakistan, said:
“Just in the past week, the estimated number of people affected has increased by three million. But funding levels have stayed the same. More people have gotten sick and more people have fled from the floodwaters. If we are to avert the spread of waterborne disease, then clean water, sanitation, and medical supplies are vital. It is shameful that these essentials have attracted such paltry levels of donor funding.”
So far, only 2.5 million people have been provided with clean water, which is vital to prevent the spread of water-borne disease. Lack of funds are preventing agencies from scaling up. The World Health Organization warns that if the affected population is not immediately provided with clean water, sanitation, and hygiene materials, we may see as many as six million new cases of acute diarrhea in flood-affected areas.
The current UN appeal is due to be revised in the next week and is likely to be triple the amount of the initial appeal, which stands at $459.7 million.
Although some donors have been generous, others are lagging behind. The United States leads donor countries with $185 million pledged for the crisis. The UK has contributed over $64 million to the flood appeal and Australia pledged more than $31 million. However, countries like France have contributed less than five million dollars to date. European ministers are due to discuss the crisis in Pakistan in Brussels tomorrow.
“It’s essential that donors step up to the plate. The people of Pakistan are depending on them. Those who have been generous will need to be more generous still, and those who have not given their fair share must do so. The levels of funding are not commensurate with need and compare unfavorably with other crises. Even counting pledges outside the UN appeal, the aid money only works out at $40 per affected person. By contrast, after the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, commitments in the first month amounted to $570 per affected person.”