Pakistan: Floods cause enormous damage and human need

13 Aug 2010

Efforts to assess the full scale and extent of humanitarian need in Pakistan continue this weekend after two weeks of heavy rain and floods left more than 1,300 people dead and 14 million affected.

As specialists in vulnerability assessment are dispatched to some of the worst hit and inaccessible areas of Sindh province, in southern Pakistan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is laying the groundwork for the country's recovery from its most devastating floods in more than 100 years.

"We are committed to working closely with the Government at all levels, and with civil society, in order to ensure that the gap between the relief period and the start of early recovery activities is minimized," said Onder Yucer, the highest UNDP authority in the country.

After causing havoc in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in the north of the country, and in southern Punjab, flood waters have moved towards Sindh, where families have been uprooted and the full extent of displacement is yet to be determined. Logistical challenges have hampered relief efforts and there are forecasts of more rains and a second wave of deaths from water-borne diseases.

People, livestock and property have been swept away by the surging waves, entire villages have been wiped out and infrastructure severely damaged in many parts of the country. UNDP is providing support to national, provincial and district disaster management agencies to ensure affected populations can start rebuilding lives and livelihoods at the earliest opportunity.

"The damage that has been inflicted to the country’s economy, especially in the agricultural and farming sectors, is still being assessed, but we can confidently say that it is enormous,” said Mr. Yucer, interim UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, speaking after the launch of an appeal for US$459 million in emergency response funds.

“If hundreds of millions are needed to provide shelter and food over a few months, the amount required to repair the damage will be in the region of a few billion. We need to assist the Government and the people of Pakistan in rebuilding their homes, their infrastructure, and their livelihoods." UNDP is supporting district disaster management authorities to evacuate populations from affected areas of southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, previously known as North West Frontier Province. It has also helped to set up a District Disaster Resource Centre in the province's town of Haripur.

The Haripur centre monitors the flood situation around the clock to better manage and disseminate information on availability of disaster-related resources, to maintain a database of volunteers and training manuals for agencies involved in relief work.

UNDP has also been involved in mobilizing communities in parts of Punjab through local authority-run disaster risk management forums, including men and women in meetings to assess the flood situation and plan search and rescue activities.

Forum members have also created Community Rapid Response Teams in three of the most vulnerable areas, leading to timely provision of search and rescue equipment, such as boats and life jackets.

Disaster management authorities are also coordinating with local media to provide early alerts of floodwaters and to inform the public about the disaster relief effort.