UN: 5.7 million Pakistani flood victims will face food crisis

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The United Nations aid agency is warning that some 5.7 million Pakistani flood survivors will face a severe food crisis in the next three months, as the death toll from the deluge rose Monday.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority said floods triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains have killed 1,695 people, affected 33 million, destroyed more than 2 million homes and displaced hundreds of thousands who are now living in tents or makeshift homes.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its latest report on Saturday said the ongoing floods are expected to worsen food insecurity in Pakistan and said 5.7 million people in flood-affected areas will face a food crisis between September and November.

Even before the floods, according to the World Health Organization, 16% of the population lived in moderate or severe food insecurity.

But Pakistan’s government insists there is no immediate concern over food supplies as wheat stocks are enough to last through the next harvest and the government is importing more.

The UN agency said in a tweet on Monday that the agency and other partners have stepped up the flood response and delivered aid to 1.6 million people directly affected by the floods.

OCHA said cases of waterborne and other diseases are increasing in Sindh and southwestern Balochistan, where flooding has caused the most damage since mid-June.

Several countries and UN agencies have sent more than 131 flights carrying aid for survivors, but many complain that they have either received very little aid or are still waiting for it.

The UN humanitarian agency also said in its report on Saturday that rainfall in Balochistan and Sindh has dropped significantly in the past week as temperatures begin to cool ahead of winter.

“Conditions are normal in most parts of Balochistan, while in Sindh, the Indus River is flowing normally,” OCHA said. Overall, he added, in 18 of Sindh’s 22 districts, flood levels had receded by at least 34 percent, and in some areas by as much as 78 percent.

The OCHA report also highlighted the ordeal of flood survivors, saying many continue to live in “unsanitary conditions in temporary shelters, often with limited access to basic services, exacerbating the risk of a major public health crisis”.

It said pregnant women are being treated in temporary camps when possible and nearly 130,000 pregnant women need emergency health services.

“Already before the floods, Pakistan had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Asia, and the situation is likely to worsen,” it said.

The UN is to issue a revised appeal seeking an additional $800 million from the international community to meet the growing relief needs of Pakistan’s flood survivors. The UN said last week that “food is being delivered to vulnerable families. However, it is still not enough to meet people’s nutritional needs.”

Pakistan says the floods caused about $30 billion in damage to its economy.

The floods swept away thousands of kilometers of roads, destroyed 440 bridges and disrupted rail traffic.

Pakistan Railways said it has started restoring railway tracks from Sindh to other cities after repairing some of the tracks damaged by the floods.

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