Thursday, January 27, 2011

Still a humanitarian need in Pakistan six months after floods

Most of the people displaced from the Pakistan floods six months ago have returned to their villages. One area in south Pakistan called the Sindh province still has many people in camps still waiting for the flood to recede. Six months later, only half of those people have received any sort of sturdy shelter.

From Reuters AlertNet, writer Megan Rowling describes the continued humanitarian need in Pakistan.

Donors have contributed just over 56 percent of the $1.96 billion requested by the Pakistani government, the United Nations and other aid groups for their relief and early recovery operations, due to continue until October. Breaking that down, only 39 percent of the $322 million needed for emergency and interim shelter has been provided.

Emergency shelter in the form of a tent or two plastic tarpaulins has been distributed to some 864,400 households, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). But that means roughly half the 1.75 million families whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the floods have yet to receive assistance to put even a flimsy roof over their heads.

"Shelter remains a concern area, and we have not been able to provide it to 100 percent of people," said Brigadier Sajid Naeem, who heads up the operations unit of the government's National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). "There is a huge shortage of funding from donors. All the facilities that were destroyed have to be rebuilt on a permanent basis ... but we still need money for transitional and temporary shelters."

The monsoon floods - which happened over several weeks starting late last July, moving from the north to the south of the country mainly along the Indus River - inundated more than one-fifth of Pakistan's territory, killed nearly 2,000 people, and affected some 18 million to 20 million, of whom 14 million required immediate humanitarian aid.

Overall, around 95 percent of the 10 million people who were displaced by the flooding at its worst point have gone back to their villages, according to the government.

But aid workers say the humanitarian situation remains particularly difficult in the south, in Sindh and eastern Balochistan, where around 150,000 people are still living in camps because the flood waters have yet to evaporate. On top of that, some 200,000 people are living more or less out in the open near their uninhabitable homes, according to Manuel Bessler, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Pakistan.

"They are living in makeshift camps and we are trying to support them by building latrines and getting food to them," he told AlertNet. "This is quite concerning for us because they are scattered and difficult to assist."

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