UN: Four million homeless in flood-hit Pakistan

The number of people rendered homeless by the devastating floods in Pakistan has risen to more than four million, the United Nations said on Thursday, making the critical task of securing greater amounts of aid more urgent.

The UN had earlier said that two million people had lost their homes in the worst floods in Pakistan’s history, which began nearly three weeks ago.

Aid agencies have been pushing for more funding as they try to tackle major problems such as food supplies, lack of shelter, and outbreaks of diseases.

The economic costs of the floods are expected to run into the billions of dollars, stepping up pressure on Pakistan’s government just after it had made progress in stabilising the country through security offensives against Taliban insurgents.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said it expected to contribute at least $2-billion to help.

“While the assessment will take several weeks to complete, the damages so far are staggering,” said the Manila-based ADB in a statement on its website.

Aid funding has improved, with nearly half the $459-million needed to fund initial relief efforts secured after days of lobbying donors. But the situation on the ground remained grim.

“The donors are improving their contribution. They are giving more and more.
The response of donors to this crisis is getting better and better but it is still inadequate,” UN spokesperson Maurizio Giuliano told Reuters

Child-trafficking is a big business in Pakistan. Giuliano expressed concern that since the floods have made millions homeless, children were at an even great risk of being forced into the trade.

“You may have families who take drastic measures because they need to survive. So even though we don’t have any suggestion that it is happening already, this can be a concern,” he said.

‘High concern’
Only a small minority of the six million Pakistanis desperate for food and clean water have received help after floods that have killed up to 1 600 people.

“According to rough estimates, more than four million people in Sindh and Punjab still do not have a roof on their head,” said Giuliano, referring to southern and central provinces worst hit by the flood. “This situation is of high concern.”

Flood victims are turning on each other as aid is handed out and anger is rising over the government’s perceived sluggish response to the crisis.

The military has raised its profile by leading rescue and relief efforts as the government has faced a hail of criticism over its perceived failure to ease the crisis. Still, analysts don’t expect the military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its history, to try to stage a coup.

Hundreds of villages are isolated, highways and bridges have been cut in half by floods and hundreds of thousands of cattle—the livelihoods of many villagers—have drowned.

Many hospitals and medical camps are overwhelmed and fears are rising of possible epidemics of diseases and viruses.—Reuters

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