Pakistan

Cyclone itself was killer, but aftermath possibly more devastating, says United Nations in Pakistan

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PI/1146
CYCLONE ITSELF WAS KILLER, BUT AFTERMATH POSSIBLY MORE DEVASTATING, SAYS UNITED NATIONS IN PAKISTAN
19990618

ISLAMABAD, 18 June (UN Information Centre) -- On 20 May, one of the worst cyclones to hit Pakistan devastated the coastal region in the districts of Thatta and Badin (Province of Sindh). The Pakistani Government and the Armed Forces took the lead in providing relief to the populations affected, and the United Nations and international donors were requested to provide additional support. Almost a month after the disaster, United Nations officials said today at the weekly briefing in Islamabad that the original response proved adequate, but that the post-cyclone situation potentially carries more uncertainty and dangers.

According to the final toll of Cyclone 2A, 189 people were killed and 150 are still missing. More than 138,000 houses collapsed, and 675 boats disappeared. Some 15,000 cattle heads and sheep died, and 256,000 hectares of land have been badly damaged. In addition to national donations, which represented the bulk of the assistance, the World Health Organization (WHO) provided $50,000 worth of drugs and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) gave water purification tablets and jerry cans.

Regional Manager of the World Food Programme (WFP) Bronek Szynalski, who is the designated United Nations focal point in case of emergencies in Pakistan, described the Government immediate relief effort and the United Nations system's response as satisfactory. He underlined that the three key areas concerning the immediate needs (drinking water, medicine and shelter) had been properly addressed by the Government at both the federal and provincial levels. As a result, the figures of the dead and missing persons were much less than the thousands originally feared. Mr. Szynalski, however, noted that better coordination structures are required in the future at all levels. In particular, he stressed that the early warning mechanism could be further improved so as to avoid undue loss of life.

Mohamed Ali Barzgar, the WHO's Chief of Mission for Pakistan, has just returned from the affected region, and stated that it remains utterly devastated. "People have lost all their means of livelihood: their house, their money, their crops, their cattle. The emergency may be over, but the situation is still extremely dire", he said. Mr. Barzgar also praised the Department of Health for its quick intervention, which had avoided major epidemics.

A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Faizul Bari, explained that the greatest difficulty, aside from the reconstruction of houses, now resided in the fact that agriculture was the main staple in the districts of Thatta and Badin for some 750,000 people and was unlikely to recover any time soon. "There is actually more damage in the post-cyclone situation because the disaster struck late in the agricultural season and no crops will be produced this year. In addition, the ground was saturated with salt water, which renders its exploitation impossible", he said. Cotton, sugar cane, rice and mango production is severely affected. The FAO was requested to provide seeds, fertilizer and Gypsum to desalinize the land, as well as livestock medicine.

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