In the aftermath of Pakistan’s ‘super flood’, which has affected more than 18 million people – that’s one in every eight – the consequences of this disaster continue to unfold.
The monsoon rains that began in July caused the worst flooding in Pakistan in 80 years, killing more than 1,700 people and leaving millions without homes or the means to make a living.
When the floods began, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement responded quickly and has reached more than 465,000 people with aid so far, including food, clean water and sanitation, shelter and medical care. In the coming months, it will continue distributing relief items to around 2.1 million people.
Nearly 1.8 million homes have been destroyed or seriously damaged and many buildings remain submerged.
“It’s like nothing we’ve experienced before,” says Pete Garratt, British Red Cross disaster relief manager. “The land area of the affected provinces is larger than the whole of the UK. Aid agencies face major challenges, especially in getting access to people and addressing their health and livelihood needs.”
Although numbers of deaths are relatively small compared to large disasters like the Haiti earthquake and Boxing Day tsunami, in terms of the numbers of people affected and the ongoing impact, the scale of the floods is unprecedented.
As well as making people homeless, the flooding destroyed crops, agricultural equipment, businesses, health services, roads, rail lines and telephone networks.
“The aid effort has been hampered by bad weather, broken bridges, landslides and washed out roads. But the Red Cross is doing all it can to get aid through, including using helicopters and hundreds of trucks,” says Pete. “In some isolated areas, volunteers are even using mules and travelling long distances on foot to deliver vital relief goods.”
There have been reports of people drinking from pools of standing water that have mixed with sewage and avoiding a major health disaster has to be a priority for aid agencies. The Red Cross is helping prevent the spread of waterborne diseases by providing both clean water and medical care.
Through setting up taps and distributing purification tablets, the Red Cross is providing clean water to around 80,000 people. It has also repaired systems supplying water to a further 34,000 people.
More than 30 Pakistan Red Crescent mobile health units are active across affected areas and have treated around 94,000 people – including thousands who have received treatment for diarrhoea.
Road to recovery
A Red Cross assessment team is identifying both the immediate emergency assistance needed for at least the next six months, as well as the substantial assistance required to support longer-term recovery.
“This is a huge disaster and the scale is hard to comprehend,” says Alastair Burnett, British Red Cross recovery operations manager. “With the earthquake in 2005 and high levels of internal displacement from fighting in the north-west in 2009, the people in Pakistan have been through so much in recent years.
“Any recovery programme needs to be based on strong consultation with affected communities and working closely with them helping them to start the recovery process.”
Find out more about our Pakistan Floods Appeal