ISLAMABAD: The United Nations’ children’s fund (Unicef) has regretted that its funding appeal of $39 million for Pakistan’s flood-hit children is still less than a third funded and that needs of the children will only continue to grow.

“The world needs to come together and help the children in Pakistan. Together we can save lives by delivering life-saving health, nutrition and education services to every child in Pakistan who needs it the most,” it said.

Unicef Pakistan chief field officer in Balochistan, Gerida Birukila, told newsmen in Geneva on Tuesday that next week marked a month since catastrophic floods uprooted more than 3.4 million children from their homes in Pakistan.

“The rains and floods have already claimed the lives of more than 550 children. Without a significant surge in support, we fear many more children will lose their lives, Ms Birukila said.

“Even after three weeks, large parts of flood-affected areas are still submerged under water. Many of the roads and bridges have either been washed away or damaged. Thousands of families in 81 calamity-hit districts are still cut-off and desperately need support. Families have no food, clean water or medicines.

“Lack of food means a lot of the mothers are now anaemic and malnourished and have very low-weight babies,” she said.

“Unicef has been on the ground since day one supporting the government’s flood response. Immediately following the floods, we dispatched $1 million in prepositioned supplies, with an additional $3million of supplies delivered and being dispatched to the worst affected districts. We have set up 71 mobile health camps, and have set up temporary learning centres to help children cope with trauma,” Ms Birukila said.

ADB’s help

In a related development, the Asian Development Bank announced on Tuesday it would provide a significant package of relief and rehabilitation to Pakistan following devastating floods that hit the country.

The ADB director-general for Central and West Asia, Yevgeniy Zhukov, said in a statement that short- and medium-term projects would be launched to repair damaged roads and irrigation infrastructure besides ensuring financial stability of the agriculture sector to boost up food security in the country.

“We are also processing counter-cyclical support to Pakistan to help the poor and vulnerable, especially women and children, the impacts of food prices and other external shocks,” Mr Zhukov said.

“The scale and impact of the floods is shocking and the ADB stands with the people of Pakistan in these difficult times,” he said.

Under the long-term plan, the ADB would prioritise projects supporting post-flood reconstruction and strengthening climate and disaster resilience, the ADB senior official said.

The ADB will work closely with the government and other international agencies to help rebuild the lives and livelihood of the more than 33 million people marooned by the disaster, the bank said.

UNHCR terms situation dire

Meanwhile, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said while the situation remained dire in flood-hit areas of the country, authorities and humanitarian agencies were racing against time to reach the affected population – with close to 8m people now displaced.

“Some 7.6 million people have been displaced by the floods, according to the latest estimates, with nearly 600,000 living in relief sites. Many parts of the country, especially in the southern Sindh province, remain under water. Officials warn that it may take up to six months for flood waters to recede in the hardest-hit areas, as fears rise over threats of waterborne diseases and the safety of millions of people, especially women and children.

In a related development, the World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday said that floods were likely to exacerbate food insecurity and malnutrition for millions of people in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2022

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