Monday, January 09, 2023

UNICEF wants countries to prioritise needs of Pakistan’s flood-hit children

"10 million girls and boys heading into bitter winter without adequate shelter," UN body says

Flood-affected children play along a ground near a makeshift camp in Hyderabad, Sindh province on September 12, 2022. — AFP
Flood-affected children play along a ground near a makeshift camp in Hyderabad, Sindh province on September 12, 2022. — AFP 

  • UNICEF urges to ensure timely release of funding.
  • Diseases risk millions of young lives, aid agency states.
  • Agency's current appeal of $173.5 million just 37% funded.

ISLAMABAD: United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on Monday urged countries to prioritise both the immediate and longer-term needs of flood-affected children in Pakistan through the provision of principled, sustained, and flexible assistance.

“To provide immediate life-saving support, UNICEF is calling for the international community to urgently provide additional humanitarian assistance, and ensure the timely release of funding to save lives before it is too late," Abdullah Fadil, a UNICEF Pakistan representative, said in a statement.

As the world looks to recovery and rebuilding, he added, the UNICEF "urges countries to prioritise assistance that is based on needs and allows for a response and recovery that moves with children as they return home while building and strengthening climate-resilient infrastructure and services that can reach children and families in need with healthcare, nutrition, learning, protection, hygiene and sanitation services".

The agency warned that up to four million children are still living near contaminated and stagnant flood waters, risking their survival and well-being. Acute respiratory infections among children, a leading cause of child mortality worldwide, have skyrocketed in flood-stricken areas.

In addition, the number of cases of children identified as suffering from severe acute malnutrition in flood-affected areas monitored by UNICEF, nearly doubled between July and December as compared to 2021, an estimated 1.5 million children are still in need of lifesaving nutrition interventions.

The UNICEF representative said that nearly 10 million girls and boys are still in need of immediate, lifesaving support and are heading into a bitter winter without adequate shelter.

"Severe acute malnutrition, respiratory and water-borne diseases coupled with the cold are putting millions of young lives at risk," he added.

In Jacobabad, a southern district where many families have little more than mere cloth to cover their makeshift shelters by stagnant floodwaters, temperatures have dropped down to seven degrees celsius at night. 

In mountainous and high-altitude areas, which have also been affected by floods, snow has fallen, and temperatures have dropped below 0 degrees celsius.

UNICEF and partners have started providing items such as warm clothing kits, jackets, blankets and quilts, aiming to reach nearly 200,000 children, women and men, he said.

In response to the worsening child survival crisis, more than 800,000 children have been screened for malnutrition; 60,000 were identified as suffering from Severely Acute Malnutrition — a life-threatening condition where children are too thin for their height — and referred for treatment with Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF).

The agency's health interventions have reached nearly 1.5 million people with primary health care services so far, and 4.5 million children have been immunised against Polio in 16 flood-hit districts.

UNICEF and its partners have also provided more than one million people with access to safe drinking water, and one million with hygiene kits. In the months ahead, UNICEF will continue to respond to urgent humanitarian needs, while also restoring and rehabilitating existing health, water, sanitation and education facilities for families returning home.

“As families begin to return to their villages, our response has moved with them,” said Fadil.

“Our mobile health, nutrition and water teams continue to respond to immediate lifesaving needs, while we help restore and rehabilitate existing health, water, sanitation, and education facilities, supporting the Government’s efforts in climate-resilient recovery and reconstruction," he added.

Fadil further shared that the agency knows that the climate crisis played a central role in supercharging the cascading calamities evident in Pakistan. "We must do everything within our power to ensure girls and boys in Pakistan are able to fully recover from the current disaster and to protect and safeguard them from the next one.”

UNICEF Pakistan has permanent field offices in all four provinces and has established four hubs to bring its operations and programmes closer to the hardest-hit areas. We have been working with Pakistan's government, UN agencies and NGO partners to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable populations in 55 calamity-affected districts, both for displaced populations and those returning to the location of their destroyed villages.

The aid organisation's current appeal of $173.5 million to provide life-saving support to women and children affected by the floods remains only 37% funded.