Archive for the ‘northwestern province’ tag
PESHAWAR: Fears grew Monday about outbreaks of disease among 1.5 million people affected by Pakistan’s worst floods in 80 years after monsoon rains killed more than 1,100 people across the northwest.
Unprecedented rains triggered floods and landslides, sweeping away thousands of homes and devastating farmland in one of Pakistan’s most impoverished regions, already hard hit by years of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence.
Officials warn that a lack of drinking water is spreading cholera and gastroenteritis, saying they are working to evacuate people from affected areas such as Swat, the scene last summer of a major offensive against the Taliban.
“We estimate that about 100,000 people, mostly children, have been hit by cholera and gastro diseases,” said Syed Zahir Ali Shah, the health minister for the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“Our priority is to first evacuate them to safe areas and then provide them with medical treatment.
“In cut-off areas and parts of Swat we have sent medical teams by helicopter,” he told AFP.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon pledged aid of up to 10 million dollars to meet the humanitarian needs of those affected by the crisis, saying he was “deeply saddened” by the floods.
The US government announced a 10-million-dollar aid pledge and has rushed helicopters and boats to Pakistan. China has also promised 1.5 million dollars, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Anwer Kazmi, a spokesman for the Edhi Foundation, said at least 1,256 people had been killed and that Swat was the worst affected district with 475 deaths.
“Food and shelter are the most critical needs of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people… the situation is seriously affecting the health of children and women in particular,” he told AFP.
Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said earlier that the floods had killed more than 1,100 people and affected over 1.5 million in the province, but had warned the death toll could rise further.
“We are also getting confirmation of reports about an outbreak of cholera in some areas of Swat,” he said.
Pakistan’s meteorological department forecast downpours of up to 200 millimetres in the next two weeks across the northwest, Pakistani-administered Kashmir, the central province of Punjab and Sindh in the south.
Television footage and photographs have shown people clinging to the walls and rooftops of damaged houses as water rushed through villages.
Hundreds of survivors have sought shelter in schools in Peshawar and Muzaffarabad, many having escaped the floods with children on their backs.
“My family is sheltering in a school, but no clean drinking water, food or medicine has been given to us,” Fahimud Din, 27, from the Charsadda neighbourhood of Peshawar, told AFP.
“My son is suffering from cholera, but there is no doctor,” he said.
He joined scores of flood victims who demonstrated for a second day, protesting against the sluggish relief effort in Peshawar.
The crowd shouted “give us aid sent by foreign countries” and “death to the corrupt government.”
Pakistan’s military and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) have been coordinating the relief effort, saying they have rescued more than 28,000 people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by helicopter and boat.
The NDMA said nearly 30,000 homes had been damaged across the country.
In Pakistani-administered Kashmir, flooding and landslides killed 53 people, said Mehmood Khan, the head of the local Disaster Management Authority.
Riaz Khawaja, a television cameraman, who walked to Muzaffarabad over four days from Neelum valley spoke of scenes of devastation.
“There is destruction everywhere along the way and severe food shortages have hit the Neelam valley
ISLAMABAD: The number of people suffering from the massive floods in Pakistan could exceed the combined total in three recent megadisasters – the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake – the United Nations said Monday.
The death toll in each of those three disasters was much higher than the 1,500 people killed so far in the floods that first hit Pakistan two weeks ago. But the Pakistani government estimates that over 13 million people have been affected - two million more than the other disasters combined.
The comparison helps frame the scale of the crisis, which has overwhelmed the Pakistani government and has generated widespread anger from flood victims who have complained that aid is not reaching them quickly enough or at all.
”It looks like the number of people affected in this crisis is higher than the Haiti earthquake, the tsunami or the Pakistan earthquake, and if the toll is as high as the one given by the government, it’s higher than the three of them combined,” Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told The Associated Press.
The UN has provided a lower number of people who have been affected in Pakistan, about 6 million, but Giuliano said his organization does not dispute the government’s figure. The UN number does not include the southern province of Sindh, which has been hit by floods in recent days, and the two sides have slightly different definitions of what it means to be affected.
The total number of people affected in the three other large disasters that have hit in recent years is about 11 million – 5 million in the tsunami and 3 million in each of the earthquakes – said Giuliano.
Many of the people affected by the floods, which were caused by extremely heavy monsoon rains, were located in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Rescue workers have been unable to reach up to 600,000 people marooned in the province’s Swat Valley, where many residents were still trying to recover from an intense battle between the army and the Taliban last spring, said Giuliano. Bad weather has prevented helicopters from flying to the area, which is inaccessible by ground, he said.
”All these people are in very serious need of assistance, and we are highly concerned about their situation,” said Giuliano.
Hundreds of thousands of people have also had to flee rising floodwaters in recent days in the central and southern provinces of Punjab and Sindh as heavy rains have continued to pound parts of the country.
One affected resident, Manzoor Ahmed, said Monday that although he managed to escape floods that submerged villages and destroyed homes in Sindh, the total lack of government help meant dying may have been a better alternative.
”It would have been better if we had died in the floods as our current miserable life is much more painful,” said Ahmed, who fled with his family from the town of Shikarpur and spent the night shivering in the rain that has continued to lash the country.
”It is very painful to see our people living without food and shelter,” he said.
Thousands of people in the neighboring districts of Shikarpur and Sukkur camped out on roads, bridges and railway tracks – any dry ground they could find – often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and perhaps a plastic sheet to keep off the rain.
”I have no utensils. I have no food for my children. I have no money,” said Hora Mai, 40, sitting on a rain-soaked road in Sukkur along with hundreds of other people. ”We were able to escape the floodwaters, but hunger may kill us.”
A senior government official in Sukkur, Inamullah Dhareejo, said authorities were working to set up relief camps in the district and deliver food to flood victims.
But an Associated Press reporter who traveled widely through the worst-hit areas in Sindh over the past three days saw no sign of relief camps or government assistance.
The worst floods in Pakistan’s history hit the country at a time when the government is already struggling with a faltering economy and a brutal war against Taliban militants that has killed thousands of people.
The US and other international partners have stepped in to support the government by donating tens of millions of dollars and providing relief supplies and assistance.
But the UN special envoy for the disaster, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said Sunday that Pakistan will need billions of dollars more from international donors to recover from the floods, a daunting prospect at a time when the financial crisis has shrunk aid budgets in many countries