Displaced families seek shelter and relief

The floods that have inundated north-western in recent weeks have now moved south, expanding the emergency into Sindh Province as torrential monsoon rains continue across wide areas of the country.

According to UN estimates, a total of 14 million people – including 6 million children– have been affected by the flood crisis. Hundreds of thousands have received humanitarian aid, but millions more urgently need shelter, food, water, and health care. And flooding could worsen considerably in the coming days, especiallyinparts of Sindh.

In Sukkur, one of the province’s largest municipalities, the Government Comprehensive Higher Secondary School has been converted into a relief camp for people displaced by the floods. Tired and expressionless faces at the camp attest to the flood victims’ search for answers to their misery.

Twenty-five families from Unar Goth are at the temporary camp, but they are not the only ones sheltered here. In all, about 500 people have taken refuge in the settlement, and many more are expected to arrive.

Municipal officials in Sukkur have set up a medical clinic in the school building, and UNICEF is supporting the local health department’s efforts to revive immunization services.

The city of Sukkur is located on the banks of Indus River, which takes in floodwaters from the north before draining into the Arabian Sea; as a result, the flood situation in the entire district is precarious. With rains continuing and water levels rising, the area has been placed on high alert.

Tens of thousands of people in Sukkur district have been evacuated from low-lying areas. Unaware of the relief camps established by the government in this area – or unable to reach those camps – many displaced families are waiting for help out in the open without basic amenities such as safe drinking water, food, shelter, sanitation and hygiene supplies.

Under these conditions, children are particularly vulnerable to waterborne diseases and other dangers.

Record floodwater was flowing from Sukkur Barrage after water flow reached its highest level of 1,115,210 cusecs on Monday and 1,128,738 cusecs at the Guddu Barrage.

If the water level reaches a critical point, local authorities may have to deliberately breach a barrage, or dam, in Sukkur in order to save the city – but that would inundate numerous villages in the administrative areas of Sangrar, Salihpat and Ali Wahan. In response to the threat, much of the population in these areas has already been evacuated.

The government will announce a comprehensive rehabilitation package once it completes a survey of lives lost and damage to property, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as saying yesterday.

A cross-party committee will be set up to coordinate relief activities, he said, after visiting relief camps in Muzaffargarh and Layyah.

Qadirpur gas field, 190 kilometers (118 miles) north of Hyderabad, was shut down after being submerged in floodwater, deepening Pakistan’s electricity deficit by 1,500 megawatts, Power Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf told reporters in Islamabad today.