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January 31, 2011

The endless flood


January 31, 2011

There are large parts of Sindh that are still underwater, six months after the Great Flood of 201, which is fast turning into the everlasting flood of 2011. There is little sign of the water draining, recent estimates suggest that there are still about four million homeless and the long-term picture is extremely bleak. The plight of millions has dropped off the news agenda and the attention of the world has moved to other things, but the aid agencies that struggled to bring emergency relief now struggle to sustain and maintain what services they can in the face of a mounting global indifference. The UN appeal for $2 billion to rebuild Pakistan is only 56 per cent funded. It has been a bitter winter, and for many the combination of low temperatures and lack of shelter has increased the incidence of respiratory ailments, with over 200,000 cases of influenza and pneumonia reported in January alone. Oxfam, in its six-month evaluation of its work admits that it is not equal to the scale of the task. It views with understandable concern the government commitment to ending emergency operations by 31st January, warning that this will put at risk large numbers still in desperate need.
As if this were not bad enough, the Sindh Department of Health has released figures that clearly indicate a severe crisis of nutrition among children. The Sindh government estimates that about 90,000 children aged 6-59 months are malnourished. Some of these children are going to starve to death before their fifth birthday. Others will have their growth and development severely impaired – the effects of the Great Flood will last for the rest of their lives. Many small farmers in Sindh are not just landless they are jobless as well, and those who missed the September-October planting are probably going to miss the April planting as well. It is in Sindh particularly that the problem
is greatest. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was hardest hit in the initial stages – it received international aid

relatively early and is now in the recovery and rehabilitation phase. Many aid agencies did not even start work in Sindh (and Balochistan) until the crisis was three months old, and the aid effort in terms of external donations, already running out of steam. If as expected the government does shut down its emergency aid and relief operations in most areas on 31st January (today); the burden that will fall on aid agencies is going to increase in that their job will become considerably more difficult, and coordination more complex. We would strongly urge the government to reconsider, and extend the ‘emergency phase’ of operations at least until the next planting season, because this disaster refuses to go away.

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