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UNICEF warns epidemic outbreak among flood hit children

December 14, 2010

“The coming cold months will sharply increase the numbers of respiratory infections and malnutrition, two of the biggest killers of Pakistani children”, said Daniel Toole, UNICEF’s Regional Director for South Asia. – Reuters Photo

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned that winter will worsen the threats of epidemic against children inhabited in flood hit areas, who already suffer high rates of acute respiratory infections and malnutrition.

“The coming cold months will sharply increase the numbers of respiratory infections and malnutrition, two of the biggest killers of Pakistani children”, said Daniel Toole, UNICEF's Regional Director for South Asia while talking to APP on Monday said.

He informed that as many as 126 new polio cases are reported this year compared to 89 in 2009 an enormous cause for concern especially as it had made significant strides towards eradicating polio.

Daniel Toole said that Pakistan is one of the four polio endemic countries in the world and low ongoing coverage in areas experiencing difficult security in the north, over-crowding and poor sanitation as a result of the floods have exacerbated the threat for children.

“This crisis is far from over. It has just evolved in very different ways from one part of Pakistan to the next and the humanitarian effort has had to adapt swiftly to reach children and women most in need as their needs change,” Daniel Toole said.

“Although most people have returned to their home areas, many have returned to near total destruction with no homes, no crops, no food and no cash”, he added.

The regional director said that in Northern areas, snow has fallen and they are delivering winter clothes and supplies to help families prepare for a harsh winter, while in the South slow receding waters have meant over a million lives are still on hold.

Since the early stages of the floods, UNICEF has been providing clean water to an unprecedented 2.8 million people daily, and sanitation facilities to more than 1.5 million people, he said adding, UNICEF has partnered with World Health Organization and the government to immunize more than nine million children against measles and polio.

In preparation for winter, he said, UNICEF has started to distribute warm children's clothing and blankets. However, millions of families still need assistance in the form of water, medicine and nutritional supplements to survive the coming months, especially those living in the north of the country as harsh winter conditions approach.

UNICEF needs $82.1 million if it is to continue with its life-saving and recovery programs in the country, he said adding, to expand urgently needed support to improve widespread malnutrition and to stop polio spreading, additional urgent funds are required for continued needs in 2011.

“The scale of this remains massive. The impact of the floods in Pakistan will be felt for years to come, so the more we can do now the quicker children and families will recover, and that means urgently needed funds to do our job better,” Toole said. – APP