The international community urgently needs to inject more funds to stem a spiraling crisis in flood-hit Pakistan said international agency Oxfam. The call comes in advance of a new United Nations appeal for funds on Friday (September 17, 2010).
Oxfam warns of growing hunger and disease as only a fraction of the people that need help have it. Water and sanitation, one of the most important areas for disease prevention, has received only 37 percent of the funds it needs, while almost four million of those who need food aid have yet to receive it.
The UN appeal is set to be at least tripled and will include immediate needs, but also cover longer-term support required to help people rebuild their lives. Oxfam calls on all donors meeting in New York on Friday, to reach deep in their pockets and provide the funds needed to boost the aid response, both now and for the future.
Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Director, who is visiting Pakistan, said:
“This is a crisis of a truly epic scale and it’s far from over yet. If the people that need help do not receive it, then disease and hunger could spiral. We desperately need donors to step up to the plate and inject urgent funding. These people have lost so much, but they still could lose more. Even today, people are drinking dirty and contaminated water straight out of the Indus river. Soon we will need to help them go home and restart their lives.”
According to UN reports, more than 70 percent of the affected population lack access to safe drinking water, and more than 80 percent lack access to clean, functioning toilets. As a result, the number of reported cases of acute diarrhea and skin diseases have more than tripled in the past three weeks, while the number of reported cases of acute respiratory infections have quadrupled.
Hunger is also a growing concern. Some 40 percent of families in flood-affected areas have lost all their food stocks. With malnutrition rates in the affected areas already high, and more cases of acute diarrhea reported each day, such lack of food could cause severe problems, particularly among children.
Oxfam also warned that the risk of a food crisis could extend to next year. Some 80 percent of the flood-affected population are farmers, and those from areas where the water has not yet receded will almost certainly miss the winter planting season, which starts now. Even in areas where the water has receded, farmers will need considerable help to enable them to plant, as their seeds and tools have been washed away by the floodwaters.
The initial UN appeal for Pakistan stands at $460 million. It is expected to be significantly boosted. Oxfam calls on donors who had pledged funds to turn these into actual money. Some $300 million has been pledged - but pledges do not buy clean water, food, or shelter.
Cocking continued: “The international community won’t have many chances to show solidarity with people caught up in Pakistan’s floods. The UN appeal is one of them and they must seize on it to send a clear signal that they care about the millions affected by this disaster. In turn, aid agencies must challenge themselves and ensure they are doing their utmost to reach all the people that need it.”
Oxfam is helping one million people, one of its biggest emergency responses worldwide. It currently has an assessment team in Hyderabad, south Sindh with a view to scaling up there.
Cocking said: “ Each day, we ask ourselves, are we doing enough? Could we do more? I’d urge all aid agencies to ask themselves the same questions. All of us need to be going at full throttle to have any chance of stemming this mounting crisis.”
In the aftermath of the devastating floods, Oxfam and our partners have launched a rapid-relief effort to reach more than one million people with essential aid.
The latest estimates indicate that 21 million people have been affected by the floods, which have swept away or damaged 1.8 million houses. Rushing water has also destroyed roads, bridges, and supplies of food and clean water. The death toll is now thought to be 1,752 people, and more than 2,000 have been reported injured.
Oxfam and our partners have so far
provided safe evacuation to 240,000 people, using local search and rescue boats;
provided emergency shelter materials to more than 70,000 people;
provided clean water to nearly 745,000 people displaced by the floods;
distributed hygiene supplies like soap to nearly 470,000 people;
provided more than 85,000 people with cash vouchers to purchase food and household items;
provided more than 7,500 people with cash payments in exchange for community-service work; and
provided cooked meals for thousands of people living in camps.
While international funding for the crisis has stalled in recent weeks, the number of people displaced by the floods continues to rise each day. Oxfam and our partners have launched a rapid-relief effort to reach more than one million people with essential aid.
International aid agency Oxfam today warned of a public health catastrophe in flood-hit Pakistan. The aid agency said while funding had stalled in recent weeks, the number of cases of reported disease, number of people displaced, and number of people affected by the floods continues to rise each day.
The initial UN appeal, launched to meet the immediate needs of 6 million Pakistanis, is 67 percent funded, an increase of only ten percent in the past two and a half weeks. During this same period, the number of cases of acute diarrhea, skin diseases, acute respiratory infections, and suspected malaria have more than tripled.
Skin diseases have leap from 260,000 to 860,000 cases, acute diarrhea has leapt from 200,000 to 610,000 cases, and acute respiratory infections have leap from 200,000 to 670,000 cases.
The UN appeal was hastily prepared when the floods began and does not reflect current needs. Since it was launched, the number of people affected by the floods has increased from 14 million to 21 million with 10 million displaced and eight million in need of immediate assistance as the floodwaters have flowed south and inundated much of Punjab and Sindh provinces.
Oxfam warned that the two most important areas for disease prevention and treatment are the least funded. Just 30 percent of the money needed for water and sanitation and 50 percent for health have been received.
Neva Khan, head of Oxfam in Pakistan, said:
“Just in the past week, the estimated number of people affected has increased by three million. But funding levels have stayed the same. More people have gotten sick and more people have fled from the floodwaters. If we are to avert the spread of waterborne disease, then clean water, sanitation, and medical supplies are vital. It is shameful that these essentials have attracted such paltry levels of donor funding.”
So far, only 2.5 million people have been provided with clean water, which is vital to prevent the spread of water-borne disease. Lack of funds are preventing agencies from scaling up. The World Health Organization warns that if the affected population is not immediately provided with clean water, sanitation, and hygiene materials, we may see as many as six million new cases of acute diarrhea in flood-affected areas.
The current UN appeal is due to be revised in the next week and is likely to be triple the amount of the initial appeal, which stands at $459.7 million.
Although some donors have been generous, others are lagging behind. The United States leads donor countries with $185 million pledged for the crisis. The UK has contributed over $64 million to the flood appeal and Australia pledged more than $31 million. However, countries like France have contributed less than five million dollars to date. European ministers are due to discuss the crisis in Pakistan in Brussels tomorrow.
“It’s essential that donors step up to the plate. The people of Pakistan are depending on them. Those who have been generous will need to be more generous still, and those who have not given their fair share must do so. The levels of funding are not commensurate with need and compare unfavorably with other crises. Even counting pledges outside the UN appeal, the aid money only works out at $40 per affected person. By contrast, after the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, commitments in the first month amounted to $570 per affected person.”
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