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UNHCR says huge scale of Pakistan flooding making it difficult to meet needs

Briefing notes

UNHCR says huge scale of Pakistan flooding making it difficult to meet needs

10 August 2010

Pakistan's flooding is testing the limits of the country's emergency response capacity, as well as that of UNHCR and other UN and international agencies to respond.

Our staff in Pakistan say the situation is among the most difficult they have faced. Thousands of villages and towns in low-lying areas have not seen flooding on this scale in generations. Across the country, Pakistan's Federal Flood Commission puts the number of homes destroyed or damaged at more than 300,000, with more than 14,000 cattle having perished and 2.6 million acres of crop land under water. So far some 1,600 people have been killed, but many millions of Pakistanis and Afghan refugees have been affected by the flooding.

UNHCR's main relief work has been in the north where flooding has been most severe. Normally our work there is geared towards Afghan refugees and conflict displaced Pakistanis, but in this instance we are working equally for all affected communities, both Pakistan and Afghan. Currently some routes are blocked, and in several places we are contending with difficult security conditions. When we deliver tents people may lack dry land where they can be erected. Among those caught up in the floods are many tenant farmers and also Afghan refugees living out on the inundated flood plains - indeed of the 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees, 1.4 million reside in the worst hit areas. Many people are now without shelter and have lost their food, livestock and all their possessions.

UNHCR has been working in coordination with the government, UN agencies and charities on the ground to respond to the crisis and meet the needs for food, shelter, medicine and water. Although we have the benefit of a presence in Pakistan's Khyber Pashtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces dating back more than 32 years, meeting the demands of this crisis is a massive challenge. In Balochistan Province, for example, our stockpiles are nearly exhausted. Trucks dispatched from Peshawar, Karachi and Lahore carrying additional tents and other items have been delayed in some instances for more than a week by flooded roads. In parts of the Swat Valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KPK), in Pakistan's mountainous north, reaching affected areas remains difficult due to landslides or bridges having been cut. In these areas thousands of people in need of aid are currently still inaccessible.

So far UNHCR has provided more than 41,000 plastic tarpaulins, 14,500 family tents, 70,000 blankets, 40,000 sleeping mats, 14,800 kitchen sets, 26,600 jerry cans, 18,600 plastic buckets, 17,700 mosquito nets and 13.3 tons of soap. On Monday we sent 1,000 tents to southern Sindh Province, where floodwaters are still cresting. Today, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, we are dispatching 300 tents and family kits to Utmanzai, 500 tents and 1,000 family kits to Upper Dir, 193 tents, family kits and plastic tarpaulins to Khazana, 300 tents, family kits and plastic tarpaulins to Azakahel and 75 of each to Khursan.

UNHCR plans to shortly launch an emergency appeal for additional funds to assist up to 560,000 people affected by the crisis. In addition to providing emergency shelter assistance in the form of tents, plastic tarpaulin, transitional shelters for women-headed households and other assistance including kitchen sets, sleeping mats, blankets, quilts, mosquito nets and other items, UNHCR plans to rehabilitate communal facilities that have been destroyed by the floods, such as water points and sanitation facilities, clinics, schools and access roads.