Thousands homeless as floods wreak havoc in Pakistan

Publié: 28 août 2015 9:08 CET

By Majda Shabbir, IFRC

The roadside was populated with men and women, young and old, who had taken refuge on higher ground after rains washed away everything they ever owned. In the middle of the night, around 400 families fled from a flash flood caused by a torrential downpour, taking with them the few belongings they could salvage. This was the scene in Rajanpur district in southern Punjab, an area susceptible to sudden flash-floods due to its location at the foothills of the Suleiman Range.

Allahyaar, a 45-year-old farmer from Chak Dumra village barely had time to grab the families’ meagre savings before running out of his village. “Our village experienced flooding in the previous years but every year the water level rises higher than before. Even if we raise the foundations of our house it’s no good. Now we are forced to live out in the open with our women and children, as we have nowhere else to go.”

Allahyar is staying on a nearby embankment with his 12-member family and is surviving on some relief supplies provided by the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) as part of its emergency response to the recent monsoon floods. Many families like Allahyar’s have no choice but to camp out on roads and embankments. Even after the floodwaters recede, their houses remain uninhabitable as they are filled with 2-3 foot high mounds of sludge and are often infested with snakes.

This year, the monsoon rains coupled with flooding caused by outbursts from glacial lakes in Pakistan’s northern mountain ranges, have so far affected about 1.52 million people, taking 219 lives and damaging about 24,000 houses in over 4,000 villages in the provinces of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Sindh and Baluchistan and the state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. This is the sixth year in a row that Pakistan has experienced bad flooding.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal to help the Pakistan Red Crescent address the immediate needs of 5,700 families (40,000 people) affected by this disaster through the provision of emergency health services, improved access to clean drinking water, food, emergency shelter and essential household items over the next six months.

So far, the Red Crescent has distributed 1,421 emergency shelters and essential household items in the districts of Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit, Skardu and Ganche in Gilgit-Baltistan, Layyah and Rajanpur in Punjab and Badin in Sindh. These items include kitchen sets, blankets, stoves and jerry cans among other items, dispatched from the Red Crescent’s pre-positioned stocks in strategically located warehouses across the country.

Accessibility to affected areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan remains an issue due to excessive damage to critical infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

Field assessments conducted by PRCS over the past few weeks in the affected areas all over the country indicate critical needs related to food supply, delivery of emergency health services, supply of clean drinking water and emergency shelter.

Fungal and skin infections, diarrhoea, and respiratory problems are rampant among the displaced, as they are surrounded by stagnant floodwater, which brings an increased risk of malaria outbreaks and water borne diseases. Sources of safe drinking water are limited, as hand pumps, boreholes, and tube wells are either damaged or underwater. With no sanitation facilities, the practice of open defecation has heightened the risk of diseases spreading.

Although the government has set up camps to accommodate displaced families, reports indicate that the camps are overcrowded. Some families prefer to remain near their homes but risk facing food shortages as relief supplies are not available.

The Red Crescent aims to distribute dry food packs to 5,000 families to address their short-term food requirements. They are also planning to set up three mobile health units in affected villages of Rajanpur, Badin and Chitral, to provide consultative and preventive services, offering free medicines to a catchment population of 10,000 people. In addition, three health facilities in Chitral will be provided with Red Crescent volunteer doctors and medicines.

To reduce the occurrence of diarrhoea and malaria, PRCS is distributing oral rehydration solution sachets, medicines and mosquito nets, as part of its hygiene promotion and disease prevention outreach sessions. Water purification tablets and household filters are being distributed to address the issue of safe drinking water.