UNHCR rushes aid to Balochistan as number of flood victims soars

UN refugee agency reaches survivors in remote areas but more aid still desperately needed.

Villagers salvage their belongings on a pushcart while wading through flood waters in Sindh Province.  © Reuters/Akhtar Soomro

QUETTA, Pakistan. August 16 (UNHCR) - An airlift of UNHCR relief supplies arrived in Quetta today to help the soaring numbers of flood victims in the cities and towns of Balochistan province.

Four Pakistan government C-130 Hercules aircraft moved 64 tonnes of tents, plastic sheets and mosquito nets from UNHCR stockpiles in Peshawar to Quetta to help speed up relief efforts. More airlifts are expected in the coming days, pending the availability of aircraft.

Over the weekend tens of thousands of people fled the southern Sindh town of Jacobabad to Sibbi, Nasirabad and Quetta districts of Balochistan. Tens and possibly hundreds of thousands more are on the move as a result of further flood warnings in the border towns.

Many of the people rushing into Balochistan are taking refuge in communal buildings like schools, hospitals and stadiums. Some are living under the open skies. They join tens of thousands flood victims who are already in the province bringing the current estimate of displaced people and others severely affected by floods in Balochistan to around 545,000 people. Figures are likely to change as assessments continue.

"We are facing serious challenges moving enough relief supplies into the province to meet the ever-mounting numbers of people in need of shelter," said Mr Bekele Nagash, the head of UNHCR's office in Balochistan, who is coordinating humanitarian relief efforts in the province.

"The needs are enormous: people need everything - shelter, food, clean drinking water and health and hygiene items. Together with our sister UN agencies, we are working as fast as we can to get life-saving help to those in need," said Nagash.

Forty-year-old Zaman fled his home in Ghot Hajan Khan Brahvi in Jacobabad, Sindh province along with about 500 families on Friday when waters hit his village.

"The water was five feet high, all we had - our animals, our lands, our crops - are all gone," he told one visiting UNHCR official from a roadside in Quetta where he had fled with his family.

"I just grabbed what I could in a rush, loaded my family on my tractor trolley and came out, not even knowing where to go," Zaman said.

Local authorities have set up a tented site at the 'Eastern bypass' on the outskirts of Quetta using UNHCR tents trucked by road which arrived in the city last week. Further tented sites are planned to help shelter the rising numbers of homeless, but tents are also being provided for people to take back home once flood waters recede.

To date, the UN refugee agency in Balochistan has helped some 46,000 people in Sibbi, Nasirabad, Kholu and Jaffarabad districts with shelter materials like tents, plastic sheets, mosquito nets and buckets. The office is hoping to help some 90,000 people but urgently needs more aid.

"Our supplies are dwindling against the growing needs and we continue to face difficulties getting supplies into the province fast enough. We need more airlifts and many more funds to respond to this emergency," said UNHCR's Bekele.

The 64 tonnes of relief supplies on the four planes today included 372 family tents, 4,210 plastic tarpaulins, and 7,800 mosquito nets. A further 3,790 tarpaulins, 7,200 mosquito nets, and 1.8 metric tonnes of soap are waiting to be airlifted when planes are available.

By Duniya Aslam in Quetta and Ariane Rummery in Islamabad

  • A boy makes his way through thick mud and debris carrying belongings he managed to salvage from his family's home, Pir Pai.
    A boy makes his way through thick mud and debris carrying belongings he managed to salvage from his family's home, Pir Pai.  © A. Fazzina for UNHCR/Noor
  • A young goat herder collects driftwood on the muddy shoreline of the Swat River near Chakdara.
    A young goat herder collects driftwood on the muddy shoreline of the Swat River near Chakdara. © A. Fazzina for UNHCR /Noor
  • An Afghan family transports their recovered belongings back to their temporary shelter via donkey cart, Pir Pai.
    An Afghan family transports their recovered belongings back to their temporary shelter via donkey cart, Pir Pai.  © A. Fazzina for UNHCR /Noor
  • Afghan refugees salvage their belongings from the mud.
    Afghan refugees salvage their belongings from the mud.  © A. Fazzina for UNHCR /Noor
  • A man surrounded by salvaged goods rests in an impromptu camp on a median strip of the Grand Trunk Road, near Nowshera.
    A man surrounded by salvaged goods rests in an impromptu camp on a median strip of the Grand Trunk Road, near Nowshera. © A. Fazzina for UNHCR/Noor
  • A woman washes her young daughter in muddy water as traffic rolls by.
    A woman washes her young daughter in muddy water as traffic rolls by. © A. Fazzina for UNHCR/Noor
  • A makeshift camp along the trunk road. People without any means to rent accommodation have been forced onto this patch of high ground.
    A makeshift camp along the trunk road. People without any means to rent accommodation have been forced onto this patch of high ground. ©  A. Fazzina for UNHCR /Noor
  • Ten year-old Naida prays in the water-damaged sitting room of her family's home in Nishath Mill Village. Until two days ago, the house was submerged in one meter of flood water   and Naida and her six brothers and sisters were forced to sleep on the roof .
    Ten year-old Naida prays in the water-damaged sitting room of her family's home in Nishath Mill Village. Until two days ago, the house was submerged in one meter of flood water and Naida and her six brothers and sisters were forced to sleep on the roof .  ©  A. Fazzina for UNHCR /Noor
  • A fight breaks out over a bag of cooked rice. With more than three million people affected by flooding,  food supplies are running dangerously short.
    A fight breaks out over a bag of cooked rice. With more than three million people affected by flooding, food supplies are running dangerously short. ©  A. Fazzina for UNHCR /Noor
  • A young Afghan refugee, covered in mud and dirt, stands in her family's water-damaged home in the village of Nishath Mill. Surrounded by dark brown water, her family has no clean water to drink or food to eat. Their remote village has yet to receive any assistance.
    A young Afghan refugee, covered in mud and dirt, stands in her family's water-damaged home in the village of Nishath Mill. Surrounded by dark brown water, her family has no clean water to drink or food to eat. Their remote village has yet to receive any assistance. ©  A. Fazzina for UNHCR /Noor

  • An aerial view of the flooded village of Tali in the Sibi district, in Balochistan, western Pakistan.
    An aerial view of the flooded village of Tali in the Sibi district, in Balochistan, western Pakistan. © UNHCR/N.James
  • Residents walk on a flood-ravaged road outside Tali village in Balochistan.
    Residents walk on a flood-ravaged road outside Tali village in Balochistan. © UNHCR/N.James
  • A man in Balochistan digs through the rubble in search of personal belongings to salvage.
    A man in Balochistan digs through the rubble in search of personal belongings to salvage.  © UNHCR/N.James
  • A young boy feels his way through flood waters using a walking stick.
    A young boy feels his way through flood waters using a walking stick.  © UNHCR/N.James
  • The ruins of homes destroyed in the worst flooding Pakistan has seen in decades, Tali village, Balochistan.
    The ruins of homes destroyed in the worst flooding Pakistan has seen in decades, Tali village, Balochistan.  © UNHCR/N.James
  • At the UNHCR warehouse in Quetta, trucks are loaded with tents, jerry cans, buckets, kitchen sets and plastic sheets for distribution to survivors of the floods.
    At the UNHCR warehouse in Quetta, trucks are loaded with tents, jerry cans, buckets, kitchen sets and plastic sheets for distribution to survivors of the floods.  © UNHCR/D.A Khan
  • A convoy of UNHCR trucks loaded with relief items for flood survivors in Charsada district in north-west Pakistan.
    A convoy of UNHCR trucks loaded with relief items for flood survivors in Charsada district in north-west Pakistan.  © UNHCR/Z. Jamal
  • Transporting relief items to the affected areas is extremely difficult as flood waters have washed away many roads and bridges.
    Transporting relief items to the affected areas is extremely difficult as flood waters have washed away many roads and bridges.  © UNHCR/D.A Khan
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