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Pakistan: ICRC and Pakistan Red Crescent ramp up aid effort as floods spread to south

19-08-2010 Operational Update

Torrential rains and successive waves of floodwaters are hampering relief efforts and placing lives at risk. The ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent, already bringing aid to more than 250,000 people, are determined to meet the needs of several hundred thousand more.

   
  ©Reuters/IFRC/A. Wynter    
 
  Volunteers from the Pakistan Red Crescent Society unload emergency relief supplies for Pakistan's flood victims from the German Red Cross.    
   
   
  ©ICRC / J. Barry    
 
  Emergency supplies stored in the ICRC warehouse in Peshawar for distribution to flood victims    
      

" The outlook is bleak: more rain is expected by the end of the week, " said Pascal Cuttat, the ICRC's head of delegation in Pakistan. " Floodwaters are receding in the north of the country but they are reaching the south, where even more people live. "

" We are working closely with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society to bring aid to those most in need. Despite providing more than 150,000 people with one-month food rations and 100,000 with other items, our joint relief effort is not yet keeping pace with the rising number of people needing help, " said Mr Cuttat. " We are doing everything we can to expand our operation to quickly meet the needs of several hundred thousand more people, especially in terms of food. "

" Meanwhile, " he said, " the ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent are redoubling their efforts to restore supplies of clean drinking water and provide medical care. But the needs go far beyond the response capacity of any single aid organization. "

In the north-west of the country, the ICRC continues to carry out its humanitarian activities for civilians affected by the fighting. Food distributions are continuing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for people displaced as a result of the fighting in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas'(FATA) Orakzai Agency.

Floodwaters descending the Indus valley from northern areas are reaching the more populous, low-lying southern provinces in waves, aggravating existing flooding and causing hundreds of thousands to be displaced in the Punjab and Sindh. The disaster that engulfed the north is now wreaking havoc throughout the south, with h ouses, infrastructure, crops and livestock being destroyed. United Nations estimates of the number of people affected have risen to 20 million.

Satellite imagery shows that more than 2,300 villages and 40 major towns are now severely affected by flooding in Sindh province alone. The majority of the towns and villages are completely inundated or surrounded by floodwaters, with no access by land. The United Nations estimates that almost 1,500 km of roads and 300 km of railway lines are submerged. Comparisons between Pakistan's current flooding and previous major natural disasters make it clear that this is a catastrophe of unparalleled magnitude – and with a further month of monsoon rain forecast, the floods are not yet likely to have reached their destructive peak.

 
Relief distributions continue apace
 

The ICRC continues to provide support for relief distributions carried out by the Pakistan Red Crescent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Balochistan and the Punjab. In addition, one-month food rations are currently being prepared for dispatch from Karachi for 42,000 flood victims in Sindh province. Thousands of Pakistan Red Crescent staff and volunteers are working tirelessly in all parts of the country to save lives and provide much-needed relief. While working principally in areas in Pakistan's north-west where they have been carrying out humanitarian work in connection with the fighting, the ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent have also responded to requests from disaster-management authorities to meet needs in certain remote areas that have been especially hard hit by the flooding. Improvisation has been the key to reaching several areas that had been completely cut off by damage to roads and b ridges. Trucks, donkeys and human porters have all been used to deliver aid.

Contingency plans developed to deal with a public health emergency have been put into effect. The aim is to prevent disease by distributing hygiene items, providing health education through radio broadcasts, and restoring supplies of clean drinking water. ICRC water engineers continue to supply water purification and bulk water storage equipment. As floodwaters recede, new bore holes are being sunk and existing wells restored.

 
Water-borne diseases a major concern
 

Eight Pakistan Red Crescent basic health units and two mobile health units have now provided more than 40,000 consultations since flooding commenced. ICRC support for Pakistan Red Crescent health units, selected district hospitals, and diarrhoea treatment units remains vital.

An airlift of emergency aid to Peshawar is still under way, with over 225 tonnes of relief items already delivered from ICRC logistics centres in Amman and Nairobi. The ICRC has increased to 250 the number of trucks hired to deliver food and other items to flood victims.

 
Dangers posed by unexploded munitions
 

Six people have now been seriously injured by mines and unexploded ordnance that have been moved by floodwaters. Leaflets are being produced to warn weapon-contaminated communities of the risks posed by mines and other explosive devices moving in floodwaters. In addition, the national and provincial Urdu and Pashto media have agreed to in form the public about the threat by radio and in print.

 
Restoring family links
 

More than 250 people throughout the north-west separated from other members of their families by the flooding have been able to contact them using telephone services made available by the Pakistan Red Crescent and the ICRC.

The ICRC has been working in Pakistan since 1947. It worked alongside the Pakistan Red Crescent and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies when earthquakes struck Kashmir in 2005 and Balochistan in 2008. In cooperation with the Pakistan Red Crescent and the International Federation, the ICRC is pressing on with its relief operations in the many disaster-stricken areas. The ICRC currently has 1,340 staff working in the country, including 135 expatriates.

 
For further information, please contact:
  Michael O'Brien, ICRC Pakistan, tel: +92 300 850 8138
  Jessica Barry, ICRC Pakistan, tel: +92 302 820 97 85
  Sitara Jabeen, ICRC Pakistan, tel: +92 300 850 56 93
  Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18