Islamabad: A year after devastating monsoon floods hit Pakistan, many of the more than 18 million affected people – almost half of them children –are struggling to rebuild their shattered lives against a background of dwindling humanitarian funding and fear of new monsoon floods.
The floods – which at their worst covered up to one-fifth of the country and caused almost US$10 billion of damage – stretched communities to breaking point, with millions of people forced from their homes into camps or other temporary shelter. Almost all of these displaced people were already the poorest of the poor in Pakistan.
According to a new report issued today by UNICEF, the impact of the floods will continue to be felt for years to come, especially by children who are the most vulnerable to the impacts of disaster. When displaced children and their families returned to their areas of origin, they found homes, livelihoods, and infrastructure – including health facilities and almost 10,000 schools – damaged or destroyed.
The floods also exposed an existing tragedy of chronic malnutrition, unhealthy sanitation practices, low primary school enrolment (especially for girls) and child protection issues. The report warns that new and continued assistance is required to ensure that flood-affected children and families do not enter a downward spiral of increasing vulnerability. If children remain untreated for malnutrition, for example, they are more susceptible to disease as well as life-long stunting and cognitive impairment.
“I, like others, was shocked to see the devastation from the 2010 flooding and its impact on children in Pakistan,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, in the report. “Over the past year, the global community, including UNICEF, has launched a massive response, reaching millions with clean water, critical nutrition, immunizations, education and other essential services to protect children and their families.”
UNICEF’s response was one of the largest emergency responses in its history, in terms of the deployment of human and financial resources, and was carried out in close coordination with the Government of Pakistan, other UN agencies and civil society partners.
Among its major accomplishments, UNICEF provided clean drinking water daily to 5.1 million people; vaccinated 11.7 million children for polio and 10.4 million children for measles; screened over two million children under five for malnutrition; established temporary learning centres for almost 300,000 children; supported child-friendly spaces for close to 400,000 children; and provided 761,000 children with school supplies to allow them to continue their education and recover more quickly from the disaster.
UNICEF also led key emergency clusters at national and sub-national levels and continues this leadership role in the Early Recovery Working Groups, coordinating for improved efficiency of both humanitarian and early recovery responses.
“Today, there is still much more to be done to address the underlying conditions that made these communities so vulnerable, and to help them build resilience. Together, we can turn the tide in the lives of children and families of Pakistan who have suffered so terribly,” said Mr Lake.
“The aftermath of the disaster has provided multiple entry points to improve the lives of children in a diversity of areas including health, sanitation and education,” said Dan Rohrmann, UNICEF Pakistan Representative. “Many children have accessed education for the first time in their life and nutrition services now reach more children than ever.”
“In a sense, the development clock has been reset, and requires continued support to meet the higher expectations,” said Mr Rohrmann. “As such, UNICEF will continue to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, as part of our ‘core commitments for children’, and continue to advocate and raise awareness of the rights of children.”
Mr Rohrmann said that the Transitional School Structures UNICEF is constructing to fill the gap left by destroyed schools are a good example of the way forward.
“These schools are designed to provide a bridge between the emergency tent classrooms and permanent schools,” said Mr Rohrmann. “They are popular with children and many students are able to attend school for the first time in their lives because of these schools. We would like to build them in large numbers, allowing ever more boys and girls, including those who have not been to school before, to access safe and secure education.”
UNICEF faces a shortfall of almost US$50 million to meet the critical early recovery needs of flood-affected children and families. The major areas of under-funding are in water, sanitation and hygiene (US$36.3m), education (US$8.1m), and health (US$4.9m). In addition, US$6.2m is needed for nutrition interventions due to the continued humanitarian levels of global acute malnutrition.
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