The time calls for joint efforts to contain the damage caused by the floods
Pakistan has been hit by one of the deadliest floods in recent history. During the past two months, the rains, 600 percent more than the average, and resultant floods have devastated the lives of millions of people, destroyed hundreds of thousands of houses, killed livestock and claimed more than 1,000 human people.
Sindh, southern Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, especially the areas surrounding the Koh-i-Suleman have been the worst hit.
Koh-i-Suleman sits in the southern parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and northern parts of Balochistan. In the KP, these mountains border with Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts, extending into Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts of southern Punjab. The plateaus surrounding these ranges are usually sheltered from the humid winds from the Arabian Sea, resulting in arid conditions. In the normal course of things, the downpour travels down to the Indus River. This wasn’t the case this year.
With abundant rain, this monsoon poured misery, catastrophe and destruction. The monsoon systems wreaking havoc in Pakistan did the damage in two phases. The first started with the beginning of torrential rains and flash floods; heavy downpours causing damage to food and water sources while weakening the foundations of mud houses and hybrid housing structures across the affected districts.
In the second stage, the floods destroyed 2,887 kilometres of road. 129 bridges were wiped out.
Taunsa in Dera Ghazi Khan and Paroha in Dera Ismail Khan have been hit the hardest. These areas are situated lower even than the road network surrounding them. The Indus Highway, that runs across these areas, obstructs the drainage in some areas. Thousands of people in the area have been stranded without food and safe drinking water. In some areas people haven’t had anything to eat for up to 72 hours.
The hygiene situation is worsening with little to no access to safe drinking water, as traditional water sources have been contaminated. The WASH awareness levels and the immunisation rates are low.
The people in the areas surrounding Koh-i-Suleman are also among the least prepared for natural disasters. The literacy rate is 26 percent in Tank, 32 percent in Dera Ismail Khan, 33 percent in Rajanpur and 48 percent in Dera Ghazi Khan. Female literacy is even worse.
This has led to low awareness levels on matters like immunisation, hygiene and nutrition. A substantial number of children in these areas are already stunted. The risk of wasting looms large.
The hygiene situation is worsening with little to no access to safe drinking water, as traditional water sources, including hand pumps and wells, have been contaminated. The WASH awareness levels in these areas, as well as the immunisation rates, are low. There is a serious risk of outbreak of diarrhoea due to open-defecation and malaria. The low immunisation rates make the situation worse.
Rescue 1122 has done some commendable work in Dera Ismail Khan. So have the Punjab Disaster Management Authority and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). However, much more is needed urgently.
The time calls for joint efforts by the governments at all levels, as well as international organisations with experience in managing disasters to contain the damage caused by monsoon floods.
The writer is a disaster risk management specialist. He can be reached at email@example.com