ISLAMABAD, Oct 13: The United Nations has launched an appeal for donations to meet immediate need for food, shelter and health services in flood-affected areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Nearly five million Pakistanis have been hit by floods that have claimed some 400 lives, ruined tens of thousands of houses, damaged vast swathes of crops and left hundreds of thousands living in camps or simply under tarpaulins.

According to a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in some areas people stranded in floodwaters are still being rescued by boats to safe places.

The World Food Programme, which has built up its emergency response capacity with all the necessary logistical and communications support, said on Friday that it still needed contributions from international donors, with a total goal of $29 million, including $6.5 million for milling, fortifying, transporting and distributing wheat donated by the governments of Balochistan and Sindh, two of the provinces most affected.

For the third consecutive year, severe monsoon flooding has delivered a crippling blow to millions of people already suffering from high food prices, malnutrition and poverty, according to WFP.

In the five worst-affected districts of Sindh and Balochistan, between 1.2 million and 1.3 million people are estimated to be in need of food assistance.

“Once again, there have been heavy losses of livestock, food stocks and seeds,” the food relief agency said in a media update.

With huge areas of land still under up to 2.5 metres of water, the prospects for planting the upcoming Rabi crop (sown in winter) look remote in the affected areas. It will be several months before families are able to resume their normal lives and livelihoods.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of people are living in temporary camps or simply under tarpaulins on the roadside where they can do little but wait for the waters to subside.

At the request of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, the WFP has distributed a one-month ration to some 140,000 people in Sindh and Balochistan and preparations are under way to provide a one-month ration for 1.2 million people, followed by two one-month rations for 700,000 of the most severely food insecure.

The WFP food basket consists of dietary staples of fortified wheat flour, pulses, vegetable oil and iodised salt, as well as high-energy biscuits.

A major concern of WFP is that while fewer districts were affected by flooding this year than in 2011, those that were affected were hit in a particularly dramatic fashion.

The agency noted the fact that one month after the rains, the waters are still so deep and covering such a large area indicates that the suffering of the flood victims is likely to continue for many weeks to come.

Satellite imagery and reports from the field show that floodwater is still present in parts of Kashmore, Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Jaffarabad and Nasirabad districts in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, occupying 3,800 square kilometres.

Humanitarian consequences of the standing water could include the contamination of water sources, disease outbreaks, damage to the infrastructure, and livelihood losses. Loss of crops and grazing areas will also have a long lasting impact on the agrarian based economy of the region. Stagnant water will have significant effect on crops during the current winter sowing season, further aggravating the food security situation.

Water level in Lake Hamal in Qambar, Shahdadkot district, in Sindh is constantly rising and the overflow is passing through to the Kacho (riverbed) area in Dadu district. According to the District Emergency Control Room, 17 villages with some 2,000 people have been affected. If the overflow from the lake continued, several communities settled in nearly 300 villages in the Kacho area will be affected.

While the humanitarian community and the government authorities are scaling up the relief response, many flood-affected communities have yet to be reached with assistance. Funding gaps and access are the main challenges on expanding the response.

The government has pledged $91 million to the monsoon floods response and it may also provide in-kind grain.

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