PAKISTAN - A third successive year of flooding in Pakistan has hit millions of people already suffering from high food prices, malnutrition and poverty.
The new flooding has caused the deaths of nearly 400 people, destroyed houses and damaged hundreds of thousands of acres of standing crops.
While Punjab province is slightly better off in terms of resources, Sindh and Balochistan have been hit hard. Malnutrition rates and levels of food insecurity here are alarming, according to the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) of 2011 conducted by Government of Pakistan’s Health Ministry.
Many of the districts affected were already struggling to recover from the 2010 and the 2011 floods. The communities have now become more vulnerable after this latest shock.
At the request of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has already started food distributions to tens of thousands of affected people in Sindh and Balochistan.
A one-month food ration is being distributed to about 10,000 families in Jacobabad district of Sindh and to 5,000 families in each of two districts of Balochistan - Jaffarabad and Naseerabad.
The WFP food basket is made up of fortified wheat flour, pulses, vegetable oil and iodized salt, as well as High Energy Biscuits and specialized ready-to-use supplementary food for small children, designed to protect against malnutrition, particularly during times of crisis.
"This is the first time we are getting such type of assistance from anyone. No one has distributed anything here,” said Khan Muhammad, who had just picked up a food ration for his family at a WFP distribution point, established at the Notal Police Station in Naseerabad. “My house was destroyed when our area was flooded and I have been struggling to rebuild it for the past two years. I do daily labour for my livelihood.”
With road access limited due to the flood waters inundating many highways, WFP has also deployed 29 motorboats to reach some of the worst affected communities.
As part of its logistics support to the national authorities, these boats are helping to supply relief goods to people who are stranded in many locations as well as assisting in rescue work. The boats are the only means to reach many houses surrounded by water.
WFP will be completing its first phase of food distribution within the week to 20,000 families in Sindh and Balochistan, but the needs are greater. Any assistance beyond this phase will need additional funding and WFP is seeking urgent donations of US$15 million.