• Orders authorities to restore power supply, repair roads within two days
• WHO says 6.4 million in dire need of humanitarian aid, 888 health centres damaged in floods
• Army postpones Defence Day ceremony in solidarity with flood victims
SWAT / MANSEHRA / ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday visited flood-hit areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and announced Rs10 billion in funds to rehabilitate the calamity-hit areas, even as a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) painted a grim picture of the health and humanitarian crises simmering across the country.
During his visit to Kalam and other parts of Swat, the premier met the flood survivors and addressed a gathering in Kalam and Kanju wherein he promised all-out help by the federal government in overcoming the crisis.
About the Rs10bn package, PM Sharif said the federal government, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and the provincial administration would ensure transparency and immediate disbursement of money in the affected areas.
According to the PM, the federal government had allocated an amount of Rs28 billion which was being disbursed among the affected through the NDMA and the Benazir Income Support Programme. He added every affected family was being given a cash amount of R25,000 whereas each family was entitled to Rs1 million compensation if they had lost a loved one in the floods.
“The cash support announced by the federal government is no substitute for the loss of lives…but it is the responsibility of the government to provide maximum comfort in this hour of grief,” the premier added. At least 5,000km of roads were damaged in the country due to flooding as per the latest reports, according to PM Sharif.
During his address in the Pattan area of Lower Kohistan, the prime minister said thanked the United Nations and other nations for extending support to Pakistan in this hour of need. “The friendly countries…stood with us in this critical time [and] pledged financial assistance for reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure and population affected by the calamity,” he added.
‘Restore power supply’
In a meeting following his visit to KP, PM Sharif directed authorities concerned to restore the power supply and repair damaged roads in the flood-hit areas within two days with the help of the Frontier Works Organisation.
“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed the authorities concerned to rehabilitate the flood-hit roads and communications infrastructure by Friday and asked the Power Division to submit a report on work for power supply restoration since August 25,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.
He also instructed for the revival of road connectivity between Kalam and Swat by next week and the repairing of Balochistan’s power transmission network within the next 48 hours.
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The prime minister instructed Power Minister Khurram Dastgir to visit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to monitor the restoration of power transmission lines and submit a report by 10am today (Thursday).
116 districts affected by floods
The WHO in its report said that at least 888 health facilities were damaged in rain-induced floods that have affected 116 out of 154 districts across the country. It further said that over 1,000 people were killed while as many as 15,000 were injured in floods. Over 33 million people have been affected out of which 6.4 million people, including 421,000 people displaced by floods, were in dire need of humanitarian aid, the WHO added.
“As of August 28, 888 health facilities have been damaged in Pakistan of which 180 of them are completely damaged,” it stated. The health body stated that Pakistan was already battling multiple outbreaks, including Covid, and added that the “current situation will highly likely increase the spread of disease especially if/when response capacities are hindered”.
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“Ongoing disease outbreaks in Pakistan, including acute watery diarrhoea, dengue fever, malaria, polio, and Covid-19 are being further aggravated, particularly in camps and [areas] where water and sanitation facilities have been damaged,” the report stated.
“WHO has also diverted mobile medical camps, including those responding to Covid-19 teams, to affected districts, delivered 1.7 million aqua tabs to ensure access to clean water, and provided sample collection kits to ensure clinical testing of samples to ensure early detection of infectious diseases,” the report stated.
Meanwhile, speaking to BBC News, British High Commissioner to Pakistan Christian Turner linked these floods to climate change. “…The evidence I am seeing on the ground is that this level of impact is unprecedented. This is not just a bad monsoon season. It is a whole lot more and I think it’s the era of climate catastrophe in which were are now in,” he added.
Defence Day ceremony postponed
Separately, the army postponed the Defence Day ceremony at the General Headquarters to express solidarity with the flood victims. ISPR chief Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said that the Pakistan Armed Forces shall continue serving our brothers and sisters struck by unprecedented floods.
Baqir Sajjad Syed and Syed Irfan Raza also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2022