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Relief critical for flood-ravaged Pakistan

UN rushes special envoy to assess Pakistan floods
United Nations (AFP) Aug 4, 2010 - UN chief Ban Ki-moon is rushing special envoy Jean-Maurice Ripert to Pakistan to assess the dire flood situation and the relief effort, his spokesman said Wednesday. Ripert, the UN special envoy in charge of humanitarian affairs for Pakistan, would arrive in the flood-ravaged country Thursday, Martin Nesirky said in a statement. A former French ambassador to the UN, Ripert will help mobilize international support to assist the Pakistani government in addressing "the urgent, immediate needs of the population in the affected areas," he said.

He will also help "in planning for the early recovery and reconstruction period," the statement added. Record rains last week triggered Pakistan's worst floods in living memory and landslides that washed away entire villages and ruined farmland in one of the country's most impoverished and volatile regions, already hard hit by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked insurgency. The international community has mobilized with offers of aid after the flooding that humanitarian workers say has killed 1,500 people and affected 3.2 million, including 1.4 million children, according to UN and Pakistani figures.
by Staff Writers
Islamabad, Pakistan (UPI) Aug 4, 2010
International aid agencies warned of disease outbreaks in Pakistan.

UNICEF said at least 3 million people, more than one-third of whom are children, have been affected by the country's flooding, the worst in 80 years.

Children are the most vulnerable and face a great threat from hunger, cholera and scabies, Dr. Muhammad Rafiq of UNICEF told London's Daily Mirror from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the hardest-hit province.

"Our biggest concern is places we haven't been able to reach. It's a disaster that will be felt for years," he said.

One-third of Pakistan's 135 districts have been affected by the flooding.

The World Health Organization said critical health issues include the control of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory infections, treating the injured, ensuring the quality of drinking water and enhancing public access to health facilities.

"There is a tremendous need for more medical and related materials to treat people affected by the humanitarian emergency, as well as to immunize children, particularly against polio and measles," WHO said in a news release.

WHO is dispatching medicine and health supplies enough to treat more than 200,000 people, the organization said.

WHO said 15,000 people have been treated so far, many for diarrhea. Medical teams are also focusing on maternal, neo-natal, child health, nutrition and psychological assistance.

But the agency said that at least 39 health facilities were destroyed in the floods, with tons of medicines lost.

The U.N. World Food Program said that just in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, an estimated 1.8 million people are in need of food assistance.

"We are prioritizing the worst-affected areas," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran in a news release. "More distributions are due to start as WFP mobilizes staff to overcome immense logistical challenges."

The U.N. refugee agency said so far it had delivered 10,000 tents and other relief items in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.

The refugee agency said it aims to assist at least 240,000 of the most vulnerable flood victims with shelter supplies, blankets, buckets and other items.

Most of the flood-hit displaced, which include Afghan refugees and Pakistanis who were already displaced, are crammed into schools and other public buildings.

"The Pakistani people of this region have been serving as the generous hosts of more than a million Afghan refugees," said Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in a statement. "Now is the time for the international community to demonstrate the same kind of solidarity with them."

earlier related report
Food fears for Pakistan flood survivors
Charsadda, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 4, 2010 - Desperate survivors clamoured for urgent relief on Wednesday after Pakistan's worst floods in living memory as officials feared a food crisis could compound the humanitarian disaster.

With over three million people affected by the flooding, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered government officials to speed up relief work and total up damages likely to present a headache for the cash-strapped government.

"We have received encouraging response from the global community," Gilani was quoted as saying. About 100,000 people had been rescued and "relief items in sufficient quantity" provided to the provinces, he added.

Record rains last week triggered floods and landslides that washed away entire villages and ruined farmland in one of the country's most impoverished and volatile regions, already hard hit by Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence.

The international community has mobilised with offers of aid after the flooding that aid workers say has killed 1,500 people and affected 3.2 million, including 1.4 million children, according to UN and Pakistani figures.

"We see urgent need of food assistance to people affected by floods to prevent a starvation-like situation," said Amjad Jamal, spokesman for the UN World Food Programme.

"Eighty percent of food reserves have been destroyed by the floods, which also caused massive damage to livestock, markets, roads and overall infrastructure.

"We can avert a big crisis with immediate response," he said.

Several hundred flood victims on Wednesday shut down one of the country's main motorways, between Islamabad and Peshawar at a point near Charsadda town for about 1.5 hours, in an angry protest against what they say has been a paltry government relief effort.

Anger is at boiling point among impoverished survivors complaining they had been abandoned by the government after their livelihoods were swept away and protesting at a "joy ride" visit to Europe by President Asif Ali Zardari.

About 2,000 people, including women in burqas, who thronged the home of a local politician to receive food items in Shah Alam village near Charsadda said they had received no assistance from the government, only from local families.

Falak Naz, 28, was visibly shaken. "I am totally helpless now. I built a small house with a lot of effort. It is destroyed. How will I repair it? Will there be any government help? These questions keep haunting my mind," he said.

Pakistan has issued new flood warnings as the rains spread, threatening to compound the misery of hundreds of thousands of victims.

The United Nations said clean drinking water and sanitation were urgently needed to stop disease spreading after Pakistan's worst floods in 80 years following relentless monsoon rains.

The number of affected districts in Punjab has risen to seven and there are alert warnings in five districts of southern province Sindh, the UN said.

Gilani on Wednesday visited flood-hit areas in central province Punjab and "assured affected people of all possible assistance".

Nadeem Ahmad, chairman of Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority, estimated that roughly three million people were affected -- 1.5 million in the northwest and the same number in Punjab.

Pakistan's weather bureau forecast widespread rains in the southern province of Sindh, Pakistani-held Kashmir and southwestern Baluchistan, as well as the hardest hit areas in the northwest and Punjab over the next two days.

The military, Pakistan's most powerful institution, said more than 60,000 people had been rescued from flood-hit areas and moved to safer places, with 40 helicopters and 450 army boats mobilised.

The government and army said personnel were each donating one day's salary to the millions of flood victims.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity on a UN terror blacklist and considered a front for the group blamed by India for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, said it was sending in 10 truck-loads of goods and nine medical teams to the northwest.

A trail of destruction lined the road from Peshawar to Charsadda, one of the worst-hit areas, where houses and shops were razed to the ground Wednesday as if a massive earthquake had jolted the region, said an AFP reporter.

Anwer Kazmi, a spokesman for Pakistan's largest charity, the Edhi Foundation, said it had reports that more than 1,500 people had died.

The United Nations has said around 980,000 people had lost their homes or been temporarily displaced.

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Desperate Pakistan flood survivors clamour for aid
Charsadda, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 4, 2010
Desperate survivors crushed into relief centres Wednesday after Pakistan's worst floods in living memory as the country braced for more storms that threaten to deepen the humanitarian crisis. With over three million people hit by the flooding, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is to chair a special cabinet meeting to speed up the relief work and estimate the damage - expected to run into mi ... read more

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