UN agencies appeal for more aid to tackle growing health crisis in flood hit Pakistan: Julian Herneis

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By Shabbir Hussain

ISLAMABAD, Oct 27  (Diplomatic Star): The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan, Julian Herneis, on Thursday said the all-out efforts were being made to tackle the post flood situation in 84 affected districts of Pakistan.

He said the international community was responding in the difficult situation and special priority was being given to food, health and shelter in affected areas.

He also informed that situation become more complicated with each passing day as winter approaching them which provokes multiple diseases, especially malaria, diarrhoea and skin ailments, were also spreading in the flood-hit areas.

Julian Herneis said that the UN agencies working together to rescue people from this climate change impact through their updated and revised Pakistan Floods Response Plan (FRP), besides appealing to the world to come forth as about 100 days passed since the first appeal, and people still need lifesaving assistance in the flood-hit areas of Pakistan.

In a joint press conference with United Nations Populations Fund Deputy Representative Latika Maskey Pardhan, Humanitarian Affairs Officer (OCHA) Felix Omunu, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan Julien Harneis, and National Humanitarian Network (NHN) representative Sumaira Javed, they urged the international world to review the revised plan ahead of second wave emerging in post-flood hit area of Pakistan.

Julian said according to the rapid needs assessment conducted in collaboration with the government, the UN and humanitarian partners, much high number of people were in need of the life-saving support services. The results of the assessment would be shared early next week.

He said one month after the flash appeal for $ 160 million for immediate relief, “we have pledges for $160 million, with $90 million received. We are thankful for the speed of the response from the donors and look forward to future support”.

He said in view the growing needs of flood affectees, a revised appeal would be made next week in Geneva. The focus of the revised appeal would be on lifesaving support for immediate and urgent needs.

Julian appreciated the front line workers as heroes of the hour. “Lady health workers, doctors, paramedics, and other staff work day and night to help the people, even though they themselves have been affected by the floods.”

He said food was one of the main needs of the affectees, who did not not know when they would be able to renew their livelihood to be able to feed themselves and their families. Though the “food is being delivered to vulnerable families; however, it is still not enough to meet their nutrition needs,” he added.

They noted that 2022 was the year the world realized climate change was here as 33 million people were affected, 1,718 killed, and 12,800 injured. Climate change events damaged 2.1 million houses, and displaced 8 million people, including 644,000 living in relief camps, while 13,000 km of roads were damaged and 1.2 million livestock was lost.

While responding to the questions regarding pathetic situation of flood hit women, Populations Fund Deputy Representative Latika Maskey Pardhan said that the women and children in the flood-hit areas of Pakistan needed urgent health and protection services amid the epic flood disaster.

Malnourished pregnant women are also at risk of giving birth to low birth weight babies who will be malnourished, she said, adding that around 650,000 pregnant women in flood-affected areas were facing challenges in getting access to maternal services, and more than 73,000 women were due to give birth in the next month — in the throes of the crisis.

She said children were facing a nutrition emergency that was threatening the lives of millions of children — more than 1 in 9 children in flood-affected areas of Pakistan suffering from severe acute malnutrition. As winter was approaching, there was an upward trend in acute respiratory diseases, with children being affected the most; an average of 24% of reported cases were Acute Respiratory Infections with 1/3rd of children, she added.

NHN representative Sumaira Javed said there was an increase in gender-based violence (GBV), especially in Southern Punjab. “Women and children are at risk in camps and settlements. Girls may also face increased risks of child marriage as families who have lost their livelihoods struggle to make ends meet.”

In response to the increased cases of GBV, she informed, legal assistance, PSS, medical, safety, and security were provided for nearly 34,000 people in Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan. Moreover, she added, PSEA awareness raising reached some 11,000 people in Khyber and Sindh while similar activities for GBV awareness raising reached over 6000 people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

Similarly, she added, 12 million people need shelter. “The shelter is becoming more and more important as people return home and winter sets in.”

She said the provision of health facilities in the flood-affected areas had become very important as about 8.2 million people need health assistance. Besides the challenges posed by the acute respiratory diseases, malaria and dengue outbreaks, lack of maternal services for more than 650,000 pregnant women, and immediate life-saving support for almost 10 million children needed to be addressed on a priority basis, he added.

Representative of UNICEF, said: ”We are working with our partners … NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and other organizations in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtukhwa, Punjab and Sindh” for carrying out educational activities.