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ISLAMABAD: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that 1.5 million children in flood-affected areas of 2022 are in dire need of lifesaving nutrition, saying that over eight million people in flood-affected areas are still without access to safe drinking water.

Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF representative in Pakistan said that the agency had appealed for financial assistance of $173.5 million for the current year to tackle the needs of the affected children but could only receive 57 percent of the call.

The UNICEF, in a statement issued here on Friday, warned, “One year after historic floods devastated Pakistan and a national state of emergency was declared, millions of children continue to need humanitarian assistance and access to essential services. Recovery and rehabilitation efforts remain under-funded.”

Last year’s floods submerged one-third of Pakistan, affecting 33 million people, half of whom were children. Vital infrastructure was damaged or destroyed, including 30,000 schools, 2,000 health facilities, and 4,300 water systems.

This season’s monsoon rains are worsening already challenging conditions for flood-affected communities, tragically claiming the lives of 87 children across the country this year. “Vulnerable children living in flood-affected areas have endured a horrific year,” Fadil said.

“They lost their loved ones, their homes and schools. As the monsoon rains return the fear of another climate disaster looms large. Recovery efforts continue, but many remain unreached, and the children of Pakistan risk being forgotten.”

Since August 2022, UNICEF along with the international community and other partner organisations have reached 3.6 million people with primary healthcare services; enabled access to safe water for 1.7 million people in areas where water networks were damaged or destroyed; reached over 545,000 children and caregivers with mental health and psychosocial support; and supported education for over 258,000 children.

Over the year, UNICEF has screened 2.1 million children for severe acute malnutrition – a condition where children are too thin for their height - and admitted 172,000 children for lifesaving treatment. Yet the needs continue to outstrip the resources required to respond.

“UNICEF calls on the government of Pakistan and partners to increase and sustain investment in basic social services for children and families. We must build back climate-resilient systems that bridge equity gaps and reduce vulnerability to climate shocks. We cannot forget the children of Pakistan. The flood waters have gone, but their troubles remain, in this climate-volatile region,” said Fadil.

On the other hand, this year flash floods triggered by monsoon rains since June 25, 2023, have claimed 212 lives including 87 children, 85 men, and 40 women. Moreover, the floods have also injured 307 people including 81 children 144 men, and 82 women as well as destroying 5,72 houses, killing 1,256 livestock, and sweeping away five bridges and destroying 23.82 kilometres of road networks.

The floods have also caused serious damage to the standing crops on thousands of acres of land thus, depriving the farming community of their livelihood. The current spell of monsoon that started on June 25 has caused major damage to crops in Punjab province, especially the area falling under Sutlej river bed, following India releases water from dams.

Owing to water releases from Indian authorities into River Sutlej which has caused massive flooding, the government of Punjab was forced to evacuate some 256,610 persons and shift them to safer places owing to the rise in water level in Sutlej.

With the issuance of timely early warning/ advisory and pro-active engagement of all stakeholders by the NDMA, coordinated evacuation of vulnerable/ at-risk population from low-lying areas adjacent to River Sutlej has been ensured in districts Kasur, Okara, Bahawalnagar, Pakpattan, Vehari, Bahawalpur, and Lodhran.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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