ISLAMABAD -- It only took a few minutes on board a helicopter scudding across the wasteland that is the Pakistan flood zone for WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran to see and feel the full extent of the crisis currently facing the country.
Hectare after hectare of prime farmland lay inundated, marooned villages left deserted, stretching far into the distance.
“There is a triple threat unfolding as this crisis widens and deepens,” said Sheeran. “People have lost seeds, crops and their incomes leaving them vulnerable to hunger, homelessness and desperation – the situation is extremely critical. We urgently need continued and strengthened commitment to the people of Pakistan in this time of crisis.” Read press release
Crisis in Pakistan
In Kot Addu, a small town in the Muzzafargarh disctrict of Punjab, Sheeran visited a girls’ school that had been turned into an impromptu camp for flood victims. Joined by UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, the two agency heads saw for themselves the scale of the current needs. Living conditions were basic in the extreme, but at the very least the families there had received - like nearly three million other flood victims - one-month food rations from WFP.
Sheeran sat for several minutes with a group of women who had lost everything. They recounted how they ran when the floodwaters arrived, taking only their children and a few belongings. A few said they turned and wept as they saw their homes and all they owned engulfed by water. One woman nursed a clearly malnourished 6-month-old daughter, whose eyesight was deteriorating – her son had been washed away by the raging waters.
Children at risk
Disease is a constant threat, particularly with clean water so difficult to come by. Major problems include skin infections, malaria and even snake and dog bites. In such a febrile environment, young children are most at risk. Specialised nutrition products were being distributed to families with young children in Kot Addu to ensure that the weakest have the best possible chance to survive.
High food prices are also beginning to hit. Many of the men complained that staple foods were now three or even four times their usual price on the local market. As long as major transport routes remain cut, or extremely congested, the resupply of markets across the flood zone will be a major issue.