UNICEF Geneva Palais Briefing Note On The Harrowing Situation Children Face As Floods Continue To Devastate Pakistan

September 20, 2022

  This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Pakistan Chief Field Officer in Balochistan, Gerida Birukila – to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

NEW YORK (September 20, 2022) – “Next week marks a month since catastrophic floods uprooted more than 3.4 million children from their homes. The violent rapids have already claimed the lives of more than 550 children. Without a significant surge in support, we fear many more children will lose their lives.

“Even after three weeks, large parts of the flood-affected areas are still submerged under water. Many of the roads and bridges have either been washed away or damaged. Thousands of families in the 81 calamity-hit districts are still cut off and desperately need support. Families have no food, clean water or medicines. They cling to hope, though with every passing moment that too is eroding.

“Families are being forced to live in derelict makeshift tents. Some have only tattered rags to shield themselves from the scorching sun as temperatures exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Children are surrounded by pools of stagnant water poisoned with fertilizers and feces and swarming with diseases and viruses, sometimes meters away from where they sleep. Despite UNICEF delivering a million liters of clean water each and every day, such is the scope of this crisis, that many families have no alternative but to drink the disease-ridden water.

“For aid workers like myself who have been helping children and communities since day one, the situation is utterly heart breaking. Every day, we see alarmed parents rushing their sick children to mobile health camps for treatment. These children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, watery diarrhea, malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, acute respiratory infections, painful skin conditions – the list goes on.

“At the same time, lack of food means a lot of the mothers are now anemic and malnourished and have very low-weight babies. Many have difficulties breastfeeding, and need immediate support. Forced to live out in the open, cases of snake and scorpion bites are rising. Everywhere we go, we see desperation and despair growing.

“UNICEF has been on the ground since Day 1 supporting the Government of Pakistan’s flood response. Immediately following the floods, we dispatched $1 million in prepositioned supplies, with an additional $3 million of supplies delivered and being dispatched to the worst affected districts. We have set up 71 mobile health camps and have set up temporary learning centers to help children cope with trauma. But as floodwaters slowly recede, the sheer scale of damage is being revealed.

“The world needs to come together and help the children in Pakistan. Our funding appeal for $39 million is still less than a third funded, and the needs of children will only continue to grow. Together we can save lives by delivering lifesaving health, nutrition, WASH, protection, and education services to every child in Pakistan who needs it the most. 

“If I may end my briefing with a short recollection: I have returned from a UNICEF mission to areas that were unreachable until just last week. We met with communities who had been cut off from the world for weeks, and we know that others remain unreachable to this day. Everywhere, people were shell shocked and trying to cope not only with the flood disaster, but with its disastrous aftermath.

“I remember standing in front of a tent sheltering a health unit which UNICEF set up together with the Government. The doctors and medical staff were surrounded with an ocean of malnourished mothers carrying sick babies and infants. I noticed that a little girl, who turned out to be 8, kept following me. I asked her what she wanted. If I remember well, she said her name was Jakia. She told me that her mother had been very sick for the past 10 days because she had “insects in her stomach”. I followed her to a small, sweltering tent under which I found her mother lying down and looking very ill. Several of Jakia’s siblings were also under the tent, only meters away from a pool of stagnant, contaminated flood water. The children suffered from watery diarrhea, what looked like malaria and worm infestation. We brought medication for the mother and the children.

“Jakia wanted me and my colleagues to come back every day. Her story has remained with me. It is one of thousands. She was worried that her mother would die; she tried to do something about it. What will happen to her if her mom cannot make it, or if some of her siblings can’t survive? Surely there is no choice but for the world to act, so as to keep such children and their mothers alive.”

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About UNICEF
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to pursue a more equitable world for every child. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF USA advances the global mission of UNICEF by rallying the American public to support the world’s most vulnerable children. Together, we are working toward a world that upholds the rights of all children and helps every child thrive. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For more information please contact:
Jenna Buraczenski, UNICEF USA, (917) 720-1432, jburaczenski@unicefusa.org