New monsoon floods disastrous for children in Pakistan

Heavy monsoon rains and floods are affecting at least five million people across Pakistan, according to the Government of Pakistan.

NEW YORK (September 13, 2011) — As many as 2.5 million children have been affected by severe monsoon floods in southern Pakistan. With many still recovering from the worst floods in the country's history just a year ago, UNICEF says more help must reach them fast before the situation worsens.

Heavy monsoon rains and floods are affecting at least five million people across Pakistan, according to the Government of Pakistan, with Sindh province in southern Pakistan bearing the brunt of the disaster.

In Sindh alone, many hundreds of thousands of families have been affected across 22 out of 23 districts. Nearly one million homes have been destroyed or damaged, causing population displacement, with many stuck or stranded along roadsides. Over 200,000 people are now staying in more than 1,400 relief camps, consisting primarily of Government schools, buildings and makeshift tented settlements, according to preliminary figures released by the National Disaster Management Authority.

Children and families are still recovering from the effects of the 2010 floods in Pakistan, which aggravated existing levels of widespread chronic malnutrition, unhealthy sanitation practices, low primary school attendance (especially for girls), and a host of child protection issues.

"Children are the most vulnerable in any emergency; in this disaster, many are experiencing the devastating effects of a flood emergency for the second time in a year. Their coping mechanisms were already weak and their vulnerabilities high," said UNICEF Pakistan Representative Dan Rohrmann. 

"We are witnessing vast devastation across huge swathes of Sindh province. The key areas of concern for children right now include access to health and nutrition, safe drinking water and protection. At the beginning of an emergency like this, it is critical that children are reached with life-saving interventions and helped to return to a sense of normalcy," said Rohrmann.

"The flood waters, apart from driving children and families from their homes, have contaminated wells and other sources of drinking water, compromised sanitation and hygiene, and are contributing to a rise in water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea. There are immediate needs to reach children with clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene messages as well as to provide additional health services to prevent disease outbreaks," said Rohrmann.

Following the official request for assistance by the Government of Pakistan, UNICEF is working closely with the National Disaster Management Authority, Provincial Disaster Management Authorities, and other UN agencies to urgently assess the level of humanitarian needs. The emergency response, already underway by the Government, will be jointly coordinated and implemented by UN agencies, the Government of Pakistan, provincial government authorities, and civil society organizations. 

"We will ensure that vulnerable children receive essential assistance both during and after this emergency as part of our 'core commitments for children in humanitarian action.' It is vital that we take all measures to save children's lives, alleviate suffering and protect the rights of children," added Rohrmann.

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian aid organization in the world. Working in more than 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health and immunizations, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency and disaster relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.

UNICEF is at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality worldwide. There has been substantial progress: the annual number of under-five deaths dropped from 13 million in 1990 to 8.1 million in 2009. But still, 22,000 children die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood.

For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, (m) 646.428.5010, smasur@unicefusa.org
Kiní Schoop, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2634, kschoop@unicefusa.org