More than 3.4 million children in Pakistan are facing chronic hunger, with an estimated 76,000 children in flood-hit areas now experiencing severe food shortages and risking severe malnutrition, according to ‘Save the Children’ — a development organisation working for humanitarian and development programs with a focus on the needs and rights of children.
In a statement issued on Friday, the aid agency said that the number of people going hungry had soared in Pakistan by an alarming 45 per cent since floods wreaked havoc across much of the country, rising from 5.96 million people to 8.62 million — the majority of them in flood-affected regions.
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“Hunger levels are expected to rise further with the onset of winter, putting millions of young lives at risk if urgent action is not taken,” it warned.
The report highlighted that floods had devastated crops and livestock and, with goods scarce, prices had spiked. The cost of basic food items has also soared since the floods, making them unaffordable for many families who were living on next to nothing after losing their homes and incomes.
The research, which will be published by Save the Children next week, found that 86pc of families had lost their incomes since the floods, leaving them unable to afford food.
The aid agency said families were resorting to desperate measures to survive — going into debt or selling what little they have left to buy food, relying on charity, or sending their children to work.
A quarter of desperate parents said they had been forced to send their children out to work to earn an income.
Incidents of child marriage were also reported — 55 parents told Save the Children they had married off one of their children since the floods. Around the same number said they had no choice but to send their children out begging so that they could buy food.
‘Save the Children’ Country Director in Pakistan, Khuram Gondal, said in a statement that the true devastation caused by the foods was becoming clearer every day.
“As well as dealing with the wreckage, the country is now facing a full-blown hunger crisis. We simply cannot allow a situation where children are starving to death because we did not act quickly enough.”
On the other hand, the South Korean government has announced that it will provide $2,000,000 in humanitarian aid to Pakistan.
In the midst of fears about an impending “second disaster” of water-borne diseases in Pakistan due to water pollution, the South Korean government has decided to provide $1,700,000 in addition to the $300,000 of humanitarian aid that has already been provided, a statement issued by the embassy said.
Moreover, Relief agency Mercy Corps, which has been working in Pakistan since 1986, has expressed its grave concern over the long-term health and nutrition impacts and expect a rise in disease and malnutrition rates to rise.
“With winter approaching, there is an urgent need for winterized tents and other items to keep affected families warm and safe so they don’t develop health conditions like respiratory infections,” said Mercy Corps Country Director Dr Farah Naureen.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), in a statement on Friday, said that it was assessing the evolving needs in the affected areas to scale up its response from 13 districts in the initial relief phase to 26 districts for early recovery and rehabilitation.
It will expand its outreach to help these communities with livelihood restoration, construction of damaged houses, rehabilitation of water supply schemes, health facilities, and community infrastructure such as damaged road drainage systems, it vowed.