Pakistan: no respite in devastating floods

13-08-2010 Operational Update No 01/10

The scale of the devastation wrought by the current flooding in Pakistan is staggering, and the resulting needs are daunting. This is an update on the relief effort undertaken by the Pakistan Red Crescent and the ICRC for hundreds of thousands of people.

  ©Reuters/Adrees Latif    
A family wades through flood waters while evacuating Baseera, a village in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province.    
Relief distribution in Nowshera, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (north of the country). During the first week of flooding, 100,000 victims were provided with food, shelter, hygiene kits and other items by the Pakistan Red Crescent and the ICRC.    
  ©Pakistan Red Crescent Society    
As much as 50 per cent of the country has been inundated, with widespread loss of crops.    
  ©Pakistan Red Crescent Society    
A road destroyed by waters in Nowshera (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province), one of the worst-affected areas.    

" Millions of people need food, clean water and medical care – and they need it right now, " said Jacques de Maio, the ICRC's head of operations for South Asia. " So far, together with the Pakistan Red Crescent, we have assisted more than 100,000 people, and we are expanding the range of our action as we speak. Still, the magnitude of the disaster is overwhelming. "

More than 1,600 people are estimated to have been killed in the disaster, and, out of the 14 million severely affected, as many as six million will require longer term assistance. The scale of the devastation is difficult to comprehend: all 41 bridges in Upper Dir district and more than 60 bridges in Swat district have been destroyed, and seven major landslides are blocking access by road to flood-stricken areas of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Road access to some areas in the north-west has only just been restored, while some areas of the north-east remain completely inaccessible.

As much as 50 per cent of the country has been inundated, with widespread loss of crops. In some areas 80 per cent of farm livestock have been lost. Floodwaters that receded from the north have now caused widespread flooding in the more populous southern provinces. And heavy rain continues to fall. The relief effort cannot yet keep pace with the increasing scope of the emergency.

 First relief distributions  

Because the ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent hold emergency relief stocks in Peshawar, they were able to take prompt action on the ground when devastating floods first hit Balochistan and the eastern Punj ab in late July, and when further heavy rains caused widespread devastation and loss of life in the north-western areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and in parts of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The Pakistan Red Crescent immediately sprang into action on the basis of initial assessments from its provincial and district branches and countrywide network of more than 100,000 volunteers. As an operation was mounted to save lives by moving people from rising floodwaters, the Pakistan Red Crescent and the ICRC started providing relief.

The Pakistan Red Crescent and the ICRC are focusing their joint efforts on areas where they had already been carrying out their humanitarian work before the floods struck; the International Federation and certain National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are supporting the Pakistan Red Crescent in other areas. During the first week of flooding, 100,000 victims were provided with food, shelter, hygiene kits and other items by the Pakistan Red Crescent and the ICRC working together.

In the coming days, the two organizations are aiming to provide aid for some 50,000 families (around 350,000 individuals). They will endeavour to help even more, according to needs, but what they can accomplish will depend on the access they have, on the logistical and security constraints they will face, and on the capacities of their personnel and other resources on the ground.

Health contingency plans have been developed that give priority to preventing disease and to boosting the capacity to deal with epidemics. Water engineers installing water purification and bulk water storage equipment in order to restore supplies of safe drinking water are contributing directly to disease prevention. ICRC and Pakistan Red Crescent personnel have set up the sole clean-water point in the city of Dera Ismail Khan, and are installing water purification equipment e lsewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They are also pumping water out of public buildings so that displaced people will be able to take shelter in them.

Specialist diarrhoea treatment units have been sent to Hangu and Paroa, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and stockholdings of medicines to treat water-borne diseases have been increased. Eight Pakistan Red Crescent basic health units and two mobile health units are giving as many as 3,000 consultations a day. The ICRC is providing support for these units and for a number of district hospitals with the aim of maintaining or rapidly restoring capacity in health facilities.

An airlift of emergency aid to Peshawar is under way. A total of 150 trucks have been hired to deliver food and other items to flood victims.

 Dangers posed by unexploded munitions  

Three children were injured in Dera Ismail Khan by an explosive device that is believed to have moved in floodwaters, and another person was seriously injured by a landmine in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The Pashto and Urdu media are cooperating in an effort to remind weapon-contaminated communities, and those downstream of them, of the risk posed by mines and other explosive devices moving in floodwaters.

 Restoring family links  

Family members who have been separated as a result of the flooding are being reunited by joint Pakistan Red Crescent and ICRC tracing services. The ICRC has donated satellite telephones to the Pakistan Red Crescent for use in areas where communication networks are non-existent or remain out of order.

The ICRC has been working in Pakistan since 1947. It worked alongside the Pakistan Red Crescent and the International Federation 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.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Michael O'Brien, ICRC Pakistan, tel: +92 300 850 8138  

 Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02