International aid agency Oxfam has started emergency assistance to flood victims in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Punjab in Pakistan, focusing on emergency food, public hygiene, intermediate shelter and fodder for livestock. Communities have also been provided with 10,000 sandbags to strengthen weakened embankments of the swollen rivers.
"Public health is a major concern," said Ms. Farhana Faruqi Stocker, Pakistan Country Representative. "Flood-hit villages are a store house for stagnant water which will not recede soon because the monsoon will hit us in the last week of July. The still waters and lack of space for defecation are an immediate breeding ground for malaria and water borne diseases."
High summer temperatures in Pakistan have led to the worst ever melting in a 100 years of snow and glaciers from the hilly terrains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. All major rivers in the northern areas have been in spate for the past two weeks, flooding NWFP, Punjab and Sindh. Over 400,000 people are affected and with more rains forecasted, the situation is expected to turn worse.
The Army was pressed into service to evacuate over 150,000 people to safety. Most of the people have moved in with their relatives, reluctant to take shelter in public relief camps which do not provide security and privacy for girls and women. Besides thousands of homes and shops, the rising waters have washed away standing crops like maize, fodder, vegetables and sugarcane on more than two lakh acres of land. People dependent on agriculture and animal husbandry for a living are struggling to survive.
Oxfam brings relief
Assessment teams from Oxfam travelled to the worst affected areas in NWFP and Punjab in order to determine the extent of the damage and the level of help needed. Oxfam and its local partners, including PAK CDP and Doaba Foundation, are responding in the three worst affected districts of Charsadda, Nowshera and Peshawar in NWFP and in districts Muzaffargarh and Layyah in Punjab. Nearly 91,200 persons (11400 families) are being directly assisted with food and non-food items. An amount of =A3250,000 (approximately US$436,000) has been earmarked for providing relief. The assistance program will be scaled up in view of the deteriorating situation.
Cooked and dry food is being distributed to 28,600 persons in NWFP and Punjab. Construction of latrines has begun in Layyah. Hygiene kits comprising toilet and washing soaps, soap dish, petroleum jelly, nail cutter as well as traditional sanitary napkins are being distributed to 2000 families in NWFP and 3500 families in Punjab. The needs of women and children are being particularly addressed and most of the kits are being given to women. Keeping in view the special gender-related cultural norms, 1200 shelter-less families have been provided with three reinforced plastic sheets each to ensure privacy and security. Fodder for 8000 animals, belonging to 1600 families in NWFP and Punjab, has been distributed.
"We are also conducting a hygiene campaign on hazards of stagnant water and using soap to wash hands after defecating and before eating," said Ms Stocker. "These campaigns are being undertaken with our local partners in the three most affected districts of NWFP as well as in Dera Ismail Khan in NWFP and district Layyah in Punjab. In collaboration with the Journalists Resource Centre, we are also trying to enhance public awareness on flood preparedness and management, including the need to adhere to the international SPHERE standards in flood response."
For more information contact:
Ms. Farhana Faruqi Stocker, Pakistan Country Representative, Tel: +92 51 265 33 41/42
Ms. Aditi Kapoor, South Asia Media Coordinator, Oxfam GB, New Delhi
Tel: +91-11-52396000; Mobile: +91 9810306200; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org