By Majda Shabbir, IFRC Pakistan
For the third year running, swathes of Pakistan have been engulfed by floods resulting from heavy monsoon rains. More than 375 people have died and around 4.4 million have been directly affected. While Balochistan and Sindh provinces are bearing the brunt of the current floods, every province has been affected with varying degrees of severity.
The seasonal monsoon first brought pockets of flooding almost a month ago to areas in the northern provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Gilgit-Baltistan and the State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Lately, the monsoon has been more active in the south with rains expected to move further north. More than 275,000 homes and businesses have suffered damage and according to government estimates, some 13,465 villages have been affected, with the floods washing away 0.76 million acres of cropland and over 7,000 livestock.
Two weeks ago the Pakistan Red Crescent Society began a localised response to the floods in the north, distributing relief items and emergency shelter to families in Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot and Bagh Districts.
In the weeks ahead the Red Crescent aims to assist a total of 7,500 families with further relief, shelter and emergency healthcare in some of the worst affected districts of Sindh and Balochistan provinces.
Relief teams and emergency response teams carried out needs assessments and distributions have started in close coordination with district government authorities. The most pressing needs remain food, shelter, clean drinking water and medical facilities.
Amma Pathani, a midwife in District Dera Ghazi in Punjab, said the villagers did not anticipate the flooding and had to evacuate the area in the middle of the night. “We have experienced the worst flash flooding in 40 years here,” she said.
Pathani is staying at a relief camp set by Red Crescent in collaboration with government authorities, housing at least 1,200 families. She says the floods brought a lot of problems for young women in particular, as the harsh living conditions cause many health and hygiene issues for them.
In Punjab and Sindh, food packs, tarpaulin sheets, mosquito nets, blankets and almost 700 tents together with kitchen sets, hygiene items and jerry cans, have been distributed to families who are forced to spend their days and nights under the open sky. Four water treatment plants will soon be operational, providing clean drinking water in Punjab and Balochistan.
Fourteen mobile health units deployed to affected areas of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan have so far treated over 16,500 patients, most of whom are suffering from scabies, diarrhoea, skin rashes, fever and malaria. Given the unsanitary conditions in which people are living, and poor access to clean water, the mobile health units are also conducting health and hygiene awareness sessions, including preventive measures to safeguard against waterborne diseases.
Although the floods of 2012 are not as severe as those in preceding years, thousands of families face an annual struggle during the monsoon season. On a positive note, reports from field assessment teams indicate that the housing constructed by the Red Crescent in the wake of the 2010 floods have successfully withstood the recent flooding - ample testimony of the policy of building back better.
In June, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society designed a pre-disaster contingency plan to ensure that preparedness measures were in place before the rains set in. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in partnership with National Societies will continue to support the Red Crescent in its relief operation.