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Sindh faces acute hunger: Unicef

January 27, 2011

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A young girl, displaced by floods and stranded on land only accessible by air, cries as she waves flies away from her face in Garhi Khairo near Jacobabad in Sindh province.—File photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Sindh province, hit hard by last year's floods, is suffering levels of malnutrition almost as critical as Chad and Niger, with hundreds of thousands of children at risk, Unicef said on Wednesday.

A survey conducted by the provincial government and the UN Children's Fund revealed malnutrition rates of 23.1 per cent in northern Sindh and 21.2 per cent in the south.

Those rates are above the 15 per cent emergency threshold set by the World Health Organisation and are on a par with some of the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Northern Sindh also had a 6.1 per cent severe acute malnutrition rate and southern Sindh had 2.9 per cent, both far above the WHO thresholds.

“We are looking at hundreds of thousands of children at risk,” Unicef chief of communication Kristen Elsby told Reuters.

A full report would be released on Friday by the Sindh government, she said, along with the province's response plan.

Elsby said it was unclear if the August's floods had caused a spike in malnutrition, but that it had revealed the extent of the problem because babies and mothers were being screened for the first time.

“People were already vulnerable and this kind of kicked the chair out from under them,” she said.

Monsoon floods starting in late July last year devastated Pakistan. More than one-fifth of its territory was inundated and 20 million people affected. Ten million were left homeless and nearly 2,000 people died.

Six months later, many communities in Sindh are still surrounded by floodwaters. In Sindh and Balochistan, some 600,000 people are still living in temporary camps, according to the World Food Programme.