The international community urgently needs to inject more funds to stem a spiraling crisis in flood-hit Pakistan said international agency Oxfam. The call comes in advance of a new United Nations appeal for funds on Friday (September 17, 2010).
Oxfam warns of growing hunger and disease as only a fraction of the people that need help have it. Water and sanitation, one of the most important areas for disease prevention, has received only 37 percent of the funds it needs, while almost four million of those who need food aid have yet to receive it.
The UN appeal is set to be at least tripled and will include immediate needs, but also cover longer-term support required to help people rebuild their lives. Oxfam calls on all donors meeting in New York on Friday, to reach deep in their pockets and provide the funds needed to boost the aid response, both now and for the future.
Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Director, who is visiting Pakistan, said:
“This is a crisis of a truly epic scale and it’s far from over yet. If the people that need help do not receive it, then disease and hunger could spiral. We desperately need donors to step up to the plate and inject urgent funding. These people have lost so much, but they still could lose more. Even today, people are drinking dirty and contaminated water straight out of the Indus river. Soon we will need to help them go home and restart their lives.”
According to UN reports, more than 70 percent of the affected population lack access to safe drinking water, and more than 80 percent lack access to clean, functioning toilets. As a result, the number of reported cases of acute diarrhea and skin diseases have more than tripled in the past three weeks, while the number of reported cases of acute respiratory infections have quadrupled.
Hunger is also a growing concern. Some 40 percent of families in flood-affected areas have lost all their food stocks. With malnutrition rates in the affected areas already high, and more cases of acute diarrhea reported each day, such lack of food could cause severe problems, particularly among children.
Oxfam also warned that the risk of a food crisis could extend to next year. Some 80 percent of the flood-affected population are farmers, and those from areas where the water has not yet receded will almost certainly miss the winter planting season, which starts now. Even in areas where the water has receded, farmers will need considerable help to enable them to plant, as their seeds and tools have been washed away by the floodwaters.
The initial UN appeal for Pakistan stands at $460 million. It is expected to be significantly boosted. Oxfam calls on donors who had pledged funds to turn these into actual money. Some $300 million has been pledged - but pledges do not buy clean water, food, or shelter.
Cocking continued: “The international community won’t have many chances to show solidarity with people caught up in Pakistan’s floods. The UN appeal is one of them and they must seize on it to send a clear signal that they care about the millions affected by this disaster. In turn, aid agencies must challenge themselves and ensure they are doing their utmost to reach all the people that need it.”
Oxfam is helping one million people, one of its biggest emergency responses worldwide. It currently has an assessment team in Hyderabad, south Sindh with a view to scaling up there.
Cocking said: “ Each day, we ask ourselves, are we doing enough? Could we do more? I’d urge all aid agencies to ask themselves the same questions. All of us need to be going at full throttle to have any chance of stemming this mounting crisis.”