Hit hard by massive flooding for the third successive year, people of Pakistan's Sindh province have no respite
By Sami Malik
JACOBABAD, Sindh, Pakistan, 13 November 2012 – As the only breadwinner of a family of 13, Sikandar Ali is deeply concerned about the health and nutrition of his wife, nine children and two sisters. Although the family had hardly recovered from hardships brought by floods in 2010, widespread monsoon flooding has, once again, deprived him of his livelihood.
Struck by massive floods for the third year in a row, huge parts of Pakistan are under water again. UNICEF correspondent Priyanka Pruthi reports on families caught in a cycle of floods in Sindh province, waiting for some respite from nature's fury.
“Our wheat, rice and vegetable crops have been destroyed,” says Mr. Ali. “Every day, I walk through the waist-high water that surrounds my village to get to the city and find some labouring work. Sometimes, I return empty-handed.
My wife is unwell, and the children have become weak. We just don’t have enough to eat.”
Heavy damage to already-damaged area
The family live in Baloch Khan Mirali, a small village in the Jacobabad district of Sindh province with some 300 inhabitants. In 2010, the worst floods in Pakistan’s history affected this part of the country severely. 2011 saw more flooding in Balochistan and Sindh provinces, including some of the areas that had been affected by floods in 2010.
2012 has brought a new spate of disastrous flooding. The National Disaster Management Authority has declared that heavy monsoon rains have affected 5.06 million people in three provinces.
In Sindh province, floods have affected more than three million people. The infrastructure, including roads, water supply schemes, school buildings, health facilities and the irrigation system, has suffered heavy damage. Crops and livestock, which are primary sources of income for a majority of the population, have been lost.
Emergency services on the ground
In order to get a first-hand view of the situation and UNICEF’s emergency operations, Director of UNICEF Office of Emergency Programmes Ted Chaiban led a delegation of UNICEF staff to visit Pakistan’s affected areas. Accompanying them was United Nations Director of Governance and Multilateral Affairs Gunilla Olsson.
As a vast area of Jacobabad district remains under water, the delegation travelled in boats to Baloch Khan Mirali village. During the early days of the floods, the entire population of Baloch Khan Mirali was evacuated. People have now returned, but the village is an island surrounded by floodwaters.
UNICEF and partners are providing emergency services to the village, establishing a Temporary Learning Centre and a centre to provide Protective Learning and Community Emergency Services to children, adolescents and women.
Water sources have been chlorinated to ensure that drinking water is safe. Latrines have been constructed, and regular sessions are conducted to educate people on health and hygiene issues. A health centre established by UNICEF and partners provides basic health services, including supplying micronutrients and vaccinations to prevent malnutrition and outbreaks of water-borne diseases.
Camp houses hundreds of displaced persons
The delegation also stopped at the PSO Petrol Pump camp established for people displaced by the flooding. The camp has a population of 700, most of whom are from nearby Haji Lakhmir Brohi village, which is inundated by floodwaters.
UNICEF partner NGO Fast Rural Development Programme is managing the water, sanitation and hygiene services in the camp. A water bladder has been installed to provide safe drinking water. Twenty-five pit latrines have been constructed.
A team of trained hygiene promoters have conducted 25 sessions with community members to encourage good hygiene practices.
As the water recedes
The delegation met community members in the camp and inquired about their needs and issues regarding services being provided to them.
Camp resident Mohammad Amin said, “[Our village] is still under at least a foot of water. Some of our elder family members are stranded in the village, and we are very worried about them. UNICEF has given us a school in the camp and is providing drinking water, for which we are grateful to the organization.”
Mr. Chaiban observed, “It has been very rewarding to see how UNICEF has been working with the provincial authorities and partner NGOs to provide support to the affected people. We are now looking at the next phase as the water recedes. We are looking at issues of malaria, for which bed nets have been ordered. We are also looking at rehabilitating schools and infrastructure. And we are looking at how we, along with other UN agencies, can continue to support communities, especially people returning to their areas of origin.”