Floods destroy homes and livelihoods in Pakistan

Publié: 18 septembre 2014 23:52 CET

By Andy Goss, Islamabad

Late monsoon rains earlier this month have unleashed a devastating flood, inundating large areas of Pakistan and affecting around two million people in a disaster that continues to unfold.

The Government’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) says close to 44,000 homes have been destroyed and more than 1.5 million acres of standing crops lost. So far, about 300 people have died.

Some villages have been entirely submerged, or swept away by flood waters in excess of 10 feet (3 metres) deep, destroying vast areas of standing crops and infrastructure. Local authorities are coordinating evacuation and rescue operations with Pakistan’s armed forces, as the huge volume of water continues to move through Punjab, wreaking havoc.

Already it has caused wide scale destruction in parts of Pakistani-administered Kashmir (Azad Jammu and Kashmir) and Gilgit-Baltistan in the mountainous north, before impacting the agricultural heartlands of Punjab, the country’s most populous province.

As part of its initial response to the floods, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society is providing relief support to 13,000 families with the distribution of food and relief items such as tents and tarpaulins, hygiene kits and items of daily use.

One such distribution took place last weekend in Wanike Talar village in Hafizabad District in central Punjab, where 250 families received food rations to feed a family for a week, along with six litres of fresh water.

Hafizabad received its share of deluge when waters from the Chenab river breached flood defences.

Mother of three, Kausar Bibi, 40, was at the distribution. She said: “Our entire village came under six feet (2 metres) of water; it was so sudden there was no time to flee. We escaped with our lives but have lost everything.” Expressing her thanks, she said that at least her family would be able to eat in the days ahead.

Many communities have yet to receive any emergency aid. Access is still a major issue, with PRCS teams only able to move into flood affected areas as the waters begin to recede.

Food is the pressing priority with health concerns also an issue. Villagers have told Pakistan Red Crescent teams about the risk to their children’s health several days into the crisis. Many have contracted eye infections, diarrhea and skin ailments. And for most families in the flood-affected areas, there is no immediate health provision - or those basic health units that existed have also been disrupted.

But there are other needs. Hundreds of thousands are without shelter, sleeping under the open sky. It is mosquito season, with threats of dengue and malaria heightened due to huge areas of standing water, where the insects breed. And loss of water systems and sanitation facilities is a further issue.

“Given the scale of the disaster and the substantial cross section of needs, we are committed towards scaling up our response operation,” says Ghulam Muhammad Awan, director of operations, PRCS.

The society plans to significantly expand its flood response with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Its operation will comprise relief support complemented by longer-term assistance.

Meanwhile, the flood surge continues to move south, entering the southern province of Sindh which has been on high alert. Amidst fears that the toll of affected communities will continue to rise, the authorities have issued extensive early warnings and conducted early evacuations of communities at risk. The Pakistan Red Crescent Society has contributed to these efforts through early warnings issued by disaster response teams at district levels.