Flood victims

Published December 26, 2022

REPORTS from flood-hit areas across the country paint a bleak picture that shows the suffering and vulnerability of the affected population. A UN report last week said a harsh winter lies ahead for those living in some 35 districts in the country. Alarmingly, there is stagnant water, reports of damaged shelters as well as lack of winter clothing and safe heating supplies. Not only do these factors threaten to put millions at risk of disease, they also increase the probability of gender-based violence. The study estimates that more than 14m people need food assistance, with half that number requiring immediate access to nutrition. A second report, supplemental to the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment, highlights that the shortage of food and the spread of disease, because of lack of safe drinking water and sanitation, will have a serious impact on stunting rates. The summer’s devastating floods have pushed an additional 2m households into poverty and destroyed crops and livestock that provided a source of income for hundreds of thousands of families.

The details contained in these reports regarding the scale of destruction and hardship faced by those affected by the floods are hair-raising, and must lead to greater action and support from both our authorities and the international community. After a string of natural disasters, such as the 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods, our disaster management authorities and government have a framework for the mitigation of the impact of disasters. They must review examples from the past, and draw the world’s attention to the continuing threat to the affected population. Resources must be focused on addressing humanitarian needs, security, nutrition, public health and poverty. Failing to do so would push millions more Pakistanis into desperation, which would have long-term consequences for both individuals and society at large. The flood disaster is by no means over. Though the floodwaters began to recede in September, the vulnerability of those living with inadequate protection in extreme weather is higher than ever. It is most unfortunate that the flood calamity is largely absent from the national conversation, which seems to be solely focused on politics, scandals and power games. Our leaders cannot afford to ignore those affected by this crisis. As the country hurtles from one predicament to another, a large segment of the population in the throes of extreme poverty and deprived of shelter and safety continues to wait for its fundamental rights.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2022

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