Three months after floods devastated Pakistan, seven million people are still without adequate shelter, and funds for the UN flood appeal are drying up – threatening the aid and reconstruction effort, the international aid agency Oxfam warned today.
As winter approaches, cases of disease are increasing and in the worst-hit region, the southern province of Sindh, large areas remain underwater.
In Sindh more than a million people are still displaced, their homes damaged or destroyed. Tens of thousands of families, who had sheltered in schools and other buildings, are now being displaced again as schools re-open. Large areas of land are still under water and some communities remain surrounded by flood waters. Many farmers will not be able to plant winter crops. Government officials say some of the worst-affected areas could take up to six months to dry out.
“The crisis is far from over. Parts of southern Sindh, the worst-hit area, still remain a disaster zone. When the world’s attention was focused on Pakistan’s flood victims there was a chance of seeing substantial aid being delivered. But as the worst of the flood waters have receded so has the promise of significant funding,” said Neva Khan, Oxfam’s director in Pakistan.
“The UN emergency appeal is less than 40 per cent funded. Many of the world’s richest countries are failing the flood victims, who are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in the world,” Ms Khan said.
Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said more countries needed to follow the Australian Government’s lead and give generously to Pakistan.
“The $75 million provided by the Australian Government will make a difference to the men, women and children affected by this disaster. But the UN has appealed for just over US $2 billion for this crisis and we need other wealthy countries to contribute more,” Mr Hewett.
Food, shelter and nutrition are of particular concern. According to the United Nations, 10 million people are in need of immediate food assistance. The funding shortfall is so serious that existing regular food rations to 3.5 million people could be in jeopardy.
Across the country nearly two million homes are damaged or destroyed and seven million people do not have adequate shelter. With winter a few weeks away, there are fears that malnutrition rates, pneumonia and other respiratory infections will sharply increase.
There have already been 99 confirmed cases of cholera since the start of the floods and 78 cases of polio were reported this month, up 26 per cent from last year – a dramatic increase when the disease is close to eradication worldwide.
At the same time the World Health Organisation (WHO) is warning it will have to drastically reduce surveillance staff numbers at five of its hubs in flood affected areas in November and possibly close down the operations altogether early next year unless it urgently receives extra funds.
Other UN agencies face similar problems. The World Food Programme (WFP) faces a $70 million shortfall and will have to start cutting food rations from November. Funding for programmes next year remains uncertain.
Oxfam says the initial aid effort has helped to save lives and begun to address urgent needs but the gains could be undermined because of the funding crisis.
In some flood-hit areas, Oxfam has already started early recovery work to help communities rebuild their lives and homes. But emergency work is still taking place in Sindh, where families may not be able to move back home for several months.
Oxfam and its partners are currently helping more than 1.2 million people in Pakistan, providing water and sanitation, distributing hygiene and shelter kits and cash vouchers so that families can purchase basic food items.
Early recovery work includes cash-for work schemes to help people begin to earn a living and clean up their damaged homes and communities; and distributing seeds and fertilisers in areas where farmers can replant.
Voices of the flood-affected in Sindh:
Mother of six, Famida Ghancha, from Mehar, Dadu district arrived in Shabaz relief camp, Hyderabad, in Sindh, where Oxfam is carrying out relief work. She said she and her family were pressured to leave their shelter in a school. “They wanted us to move so classes could open. We got here last night. We can’t go home yet as we know there is still five feet of water in our village.
“Not having a home is the biggest problem for me. We are among strangers here. There is absolutely no privacy. It’s really shaming for me to live like this.”
Hidayat Siyal, from Bubak Union Council, Sindh, will not be able to return to her village for months as it is still under water. She is staying at Sehwan Sharif relief camp, Jamshoro district. “We are unemployed and have no money. Normally, we farm on our landlord’s land and have got heavily into debt.
“It will take at least a year and a half before we can harvest. We should grow wheat next; but it is impossible to plant because of the floods. We are facing huge losses.”
Mohamad Razi, 19, staying in Shabaz relief camp, from Rahimabad, Jacobobad district, Sindh:
“It’s too flooded to go back home. The water is six feet high. No-one will be able to plant anything. We should be planting next month, but we will have to wait a year. We have to depend on the government for help – we have nothing here.”
He bought a tractor on credit and should pay back the loans in monthly instalments. “I was hoping to make repayments after the harvest; but our crops were ruined and we won’t be able to farm for quite a long time. Maybe they will re-possess or tractor. It’s a big disaster.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
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