Pakistan: Flooding kills 30, affects over 460,000

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

ISLAMABAD, 18 July (IRIN) - More than 30 people have been killed, while over 460,000 people in low-lying areas of Pakistan have been affected by three weeks of flooding, according to the central Flood Relief Cell (FRC) in the capital, Islamabad.

"Public health is a major concern at the moment. Flood-hit villages are a storehouse for stagnant water, which will not recede soon, since heavy monsoon rains are forecast towards the end of July," Farhana Faruqi Stocker, country representative of the UK-based international charity Oxfam, said in Islamabad on Monday. "The still water is an immediate breeding ground for malaria and water-borne diseases," she added.

According to meteorologists, above average summer temperatures for the past four weeks across northern Pakistan and Afghanistan have led to massive snowmelt the largest seen in over 100 years. This has resulted in heavy flooding of the northern Kabul and Swat rivers - tributaries of the mighty Indus flowing south into Punjab and Sindh provinces.

The situation has been compounded by heavy monsoon rains across the country, creating an emergency situation in parts of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Punjab.

In NWFP, at least 114 villages have been affected with over 1,100 houses destroyed and more than 1,800 partially damaged in seven districts: Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera, Swat, Chitral, Karak and Shangla.

The Pakistan chapter of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) together with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has also been distributing some 2,000 food baskets amongst the flood-affected families in three districts.

At least another 1,000 villages and small settlements have been affected in Punjab province, with more than 21,000 houses damaged along the Indus and Chenab rivers. Punjab relief authorities have established some 264 camps for the provision of free food and fodder across 14 flood-hit districts including the six most affected: Layyah, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Muzzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan and Multan.

Flooding has extensively damaged crops, including those of maize, fodder, vegetables, cotton, sugarcane and rice paddy, covering over 950,000 hectares in NWFP and Punjab provinces, according to the FRC in the capital.

With a massive relief programme costing nearly US $500,000 for flood-affected people in Punjab and NWFP, Oxfam has assisted nearly 91,200 people with food and non-food items. The charity intends to scale up relief operation if the situation deteriorates.

In Sindh province, over 8,000 people have been displaced in the districts of Sukkur, Ghotki, Kashmore and Shikarpur. Nearly 500 mud houses along the River Indus have been damaged partially in the districts of Dadu and Jamshoro, according to provincial relief authorities. Free food and medical care is being provided in relief centres in the flood-affected areas.

Oxfam has also been distributing hygiene kits to some 2,000 families in NWFP and to around 3,500 families in Punjab. "The needs of women and children are being particularly addressed and most of the kits are being given to women," Stocker added.


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