Five million flood-hit Pakistanis still need aid, UN says

Thursday, 1 March 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

NEW DELHI (AlertNet) : Over five million people in Pakistan still need basic aid such as shelter, clean water and healthcare six months after floods inundated thousands of villages in the south, a senior U.N. official said.

 Floods triggered by annual monsoon rains in August last year disrupted the lives of nine million people in Pakistan’s Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, killing more than 430 people and forcing hundreds of thousands to camp out in the open.

Lynn Hastings, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Pakistan, told AlertNet that $440 million was needed to help around 5.2 million people rebuild their lives after the disaster.

“Across the board, in all the districts affected, there are very significant needs that are still outstanding - be it to provide food-for-work schemes or some sort of shelter - something better than tarpaulin sheets,” Hastings said in a phone interview from Islamabad.

“There are varying degrees (of need) - there are people who have gone back to absolute nothing and then some people who have gone back and salvaged something. There are others who still can’t return.”

Hastings said 10,000 families - about 60,000 to 70,000 people - have not yet been able to return home as 10 percent of Sindh province is still underwater.

About 800,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by the disaster and large swathes of farmland submerged, she said, resulting in 92 percent of the area’s cotton and 81 percent of sugar cane crop being lost.

U.N. officials estimate that more than one third of those suffering as result of last year’s floods, were still in a state of recovery - having been hit by Pakistan’s worst ever floods in July 2010. Those monsoon floods left one fifth of the country - an area the size of Italy - underwater and disrupted the lives of more than 18 million people.

Pakistan is not only prone to disasters such as floods and earthquakes, but the country has also seen the displacement of millions due military operations against Taliban insurgents in volatile northwestern regions in recent years.

Appeals for funding to tackle Pakistan’s various humanitarian crises have, like many around the world, received a poor response from international donors.

For example, a previous U.N. appeal in September last year for $356 million life-saving aid for the same flood survivors has until now only been about 50 percent funded.

“I think it’s a global economic issue, first and foremost. Some of the donors, when we were discussing this with them in the fall, did indicate that there were competing interests - in particular the Horn of Africa and Libya,” Hastings said.

“This really put economic strains on donors, and then of course there were the floods in Thailand, an earthquake in Turkey and I guess it’s just largely competing interests and the global recession.”

Other humanitarian agencies, like the Red Cross, however last year alluded to Pakistan being a “bad brand” to sell to donors due to its reputation as being a haven for militants and its tense relationship with the United States, its biggest donor.

Hastings said she was hopeful that politics would not adversely impact Western donors’ response to the flood victims.

“I think donors are interested. Whether or not that translates into money or not, I don’t know. But certainly, the interest in knowing what the needs are has been expressed by donors,” she said.