Pakistan Floods Displace 1 Million, Death Toll Expected to Rise

By Helena Zhu
Helena Zhu
Helena Zhu
August 2, 2010 Updated: February 29, 2012

[xtypo_dropcap]A[/xtypo_dropcap]s the daily Pakistan flood death toll mounts, now topping 1,500 people, the United Nations World Food Program has begun distributing food to more than 35,000 families affected by the flood, according to UN News Center.

[etssp 81]The floods, which have affected some 1 million people in the area, are the worst seen in northwest Pakistan in 80 years, according to a statement issued by the spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In addition to the existing U.N. aid in Pakistan, Ban authorized the disbursement of up to $10 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to provide emergency relief.

“We know that these people have been suffering in this area continuously,” said Alejandro Lopez-Chicheri, a New York-based spokesperson for the WFP. “We are trying to mobilize as many supplies as possible and save as many people as possible.”

Lopez-Chicheri says that one million people have been displaced and already poor Pakistanis, have lost everything, including animals and food.

“They have faced very difficult situations. They had to save their children and take their belongings, but they could take very little things away.”

Triggered by torrential monsoon rains, the floods and rainstorms in the country’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province have torn apart homes and infrastructure such as roads and bridges, isolating some heavily affected and poor areas. A WFP warehouse of food supplies for both Pakistan and Afghanistan has also been damaged, which could complicate efforts to distribute supplies.

“Our first response is to save lives, from within 48 hours to the first week,” said Lopez-Chicheri, who lived in Pakistan for four years.

“There’s a time when we would release a recovery operation—we help people, build and focus on long-term developments. At this moment, it’s an emergency, the priority is to save people … The people have nothing to cook with—everything is lost. So they need food to eat, like high-energy biscuits.”

The first emergency rations reached the hands of about 3,000 families on Sunday in Peshawar, Nowshera, and Charsadda, three of the most devastated areas. The agency intends to feed up to 150,000 more families over the next two to three months.

The U.N. World Health Organization reported that about 27,000 people are still waiting to be evacuated from flooded areas in the devastated province. Over the next few days, the death toll might double, said Pakistani relief agency Edhi Foundation.

WHO noted an increase in diarrhea cases because of the use of contaminated water. The organization reported an urgent need for diarrhea treatment kits, water chlorination systems, tents for temporary health facilities, psychosocial support, campaigns to promote hygiene, and vaccination drives.

The U.N. Refugee Agency has supplied tents and non-food items to the provincial authorities, as WHO and U.N. Children’s Fund are giving support and medical supplies.

Helena Zhu