Eight million flood victims 'in desperate need of aid'
As many as eight million people in flood-ravaged Pakistan still need aid, the United Nations (UN) said, preparing to issue a fresh appeal for humanitarian aid.
About $90m (€71m) is needed immediately to supply food to the disaster-hit areas, said Jean-Maurice Ripert, the UN secretary-general for humanitarian assistance to Pakistan. A second-wave crisis from water-borne diseases is likely, he told reporters yesterday in Islamabad.
On Monday, Pakistani engineers plugged flood defences near the city of Thatta in the Sindh province as officials said that the waters that swamped an area the size of England over the past month were finally receding.
At least 1,600 people have died and about 17.2 million have lost homes and livelihoods in the floods, the UN says. With farmland inundated across a fifth of Pakistan and roads and bridges washed away, economic growth may plunge by half this year, Pakistani finance officials have said.
A UN emergency appeal for $460m has received about 70pc of its target, the BBC reported last week. India, Pakistan's neighbour and traditional rival, yesterday offered an additional $20m, adding to an earlier pledge of $5m.
As part of efforts to assist Pakistan's economy, European Union officials are considering offering reduced tariffs for the country's textile exports, the 'Financial Times' reported on Monday, citing EU and Pakistani officials.
Aid agencies fear disease, food shortages and malnutrition may create new crises as people head back to their shattered towns and villages to rebuild their homes and lives.
"Whatever stock of medicines we have is about to finish and the number of patients will increase in the coming days," said Ashiq Hussain Malik, medical superintendent of Muzaffargarh's main district hospital in Punjab province.
"Nearly 60pc of patients are suffering from gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, skin and eye infections and the patients who are coming here are in a pretty bad condition."
Anthony Lake, executive director of the UN Children's Fund, said the floods were a children's emergency.
"Nearly 8.6 million children, roughly 50pc of the total affected population, has been hit by the flooding," he told a news conference after touring flooded areas. "These children are in desperate need and they must be fed, given water, vaccinated and protected from diseases."
Some Pakistanis have grown increasingly angry with the sluggish government response, and are turning to Islamic charities, some of them tied to militant groups. The US State Department says it has been told of a threat from Islamic militants to foreign aid workers, complicating the already extremely difficult task of relief and reconstruction.