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Pakistan faces further flooding as UNHCR works to aid displaced

Briefing notes

Pakistan faces further flooding as UNHCR works to aid displaced

6 August 2010

Monsoon rain continues to sweep across parts of Pakistan. According to UNHCR implementing partners on the ground, it has been raining today in northern areas of the Swat Valley in flood-affected Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

The rich agricultural region around Barikot has been seriously affected by the flood waters sweeping beyond the banks of the bloated Swat river. Of some 25 bridges in Swat, 22 have reportedly been washed out as the water sweeps downwards towards the Kabul and Indus rivers.

UNHCR contacts on the ground in Barikot report that there are shortages of food and medicine while electrical power and gas supplies have been disconnected. In many areas, clean water isn't available as so many wells have been filled with mud.

Since early morning, driving rains have been pouring down on Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, flooding streams and canals. The current monsoon is the worst downpour the region has seen in more than 80 years.

UNHCR is initially aiming to support more than 350,000 of the most vulnerable among the flood-affected population in Pakistan. The agency has done a provisional estimation of needs, according to which we are asking for more than $21 million to address the emergency requirements of the flood affected people, including Afghan refugees and Pakistanis host communities.

With many hundreds of thousands of people displaced and without adequate shelter, food and water, government departments and aid agencies are in a race against time to reach affected communities while many roads and key bridges remain cut off.

According to the Federal Flood Commission, more than 248,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged and 1.38 million acres (558,000 hectares) of crop land flooded across Pakistan. More than 10,000 cows have reportedly perished over the past eight days.

Across Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, more than 12,000 UNHCR tents have so far been distributed along with other thousands of other relief items such as plastic tarpaulins, blankets, jerry cans and kitchen sets as part of a coordinated response effort involving the government, UN and NGOs.

Tomorrow (Saturday), UNHCR will receive supplies donated by the Saudi Fund for Development including 25,000 tents, 380,000 blankets, 126,000 plastic tarpaulins, 100,000 mattresses and 25,000 kitchen sets as well as 20,000 food parcels for Ramadan.

UNHCR's relief items are being distributed by carefully selected partner charities including the Community Motivation and Development Organisation (CMDO), Sarhad Rural Support Program (SRSP) and the Centre for Excellence in Rural Development (CERD) as well as central government and provincial partners.

Monsoon-affected people have told UNHCR teams how they fled their homes as they were hit by walls of water. Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed or badly damaged. Families have lost all their food stocks, livestock and personal possessions. One woman told UNHCR how her family had lost 50 cows.

Akbar Ali, a fifty years old carpenter in the village of Utmanzai lost his home as well his tools. "I have lost all my equipment in the flood and do not have money to buy it again and restart my work".

Some of those affected by the flooding are tenant farmers who fear that their landlords will rebuild their own homes first, leaving the devastated tenant farmers reliant on UNHCR's tents and plastic sheeting for the foreseeable future. Those families with homes still intact have found them filled with mud and their remaining personal belongings and food completely ruined.

" We have no place to stay, now we have been accommodated in a school but once the school reopens after the summer break what would happen to us and where would we go? We have lost our house and do not have money to rent a house" one woman now living in a school near Peshawar told UNHCR's field team.

In addition to tents and plastic tarpaulins, UNHCR is distributing cooking sets, blankets, sleeping mats, jerrycans and buckets. Some displaced families have set up makeshift tented camps using donated aid supplies on the median strip along the Islamabad-Peshawar highway adjacent to the swirling Kabul River.

UNHCR's main mandate is protecting refugees, but the organisation has always positively responded to the call for humanitarian assistance for the local population of Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Balochistan. Living in Pakistan's monsoon-affected communities are some 1.5 million Afghan refugees who have taken shelter in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan over the past three decades and an estimated more than 700,000 people displaced by fighting in the Swat Valley and other areas last year.

Four Afghan refugee villages of Munda, Hajizai, Utmanzai and Azakheil in Charsadda, Peshawar and Nowshera districts have been badly damaged by the floods. Some 10,000 refugee families reside in the affected settlements.

Further south in Sindh Province, Pakistan government officials have reportedly ordered the evacuation of villages along the Indus valley. Authorities said they have set up 400 relief camps for those evacuated and are using 30 boats to help evacuations. Authorities in Sindh Province have warned that major floods are expected on Saturday and Sunday.