Millions lack shelter after floods

With entire towns and villages swallowed up by devastating floods, experts say it could take years to solve a shelter crisis now facing up to 4.6 million people camped out under open skies.

The catastrophic floods swamped a fifth of Pakistan — an area the size of England — and affected 20 million people in the country’s worst ever natural disaster with untold economic, social and political repercussions.

The United Nations estimates 4.6 million people are still without shelter after the floods and has tripled to six million its target for assistance in the form of tents and plastic sheeting.

The Asian Development Bank said it would provide two billion dollars to repair roads, bridges, power lines, homes, schools, medical facilities and farm structures, and the World Bank has promised to lend 900 million dollars.

The floods have washed away landmarks and official records, making it even more difficult for authorities and the owners to judge the location, length and breadth of plots and houses.

The United Nations believes hundreds of thousands of people are still on the move. Not all the 4.6 million can be considered technically “homeless” because they may find homes to return to when the flood waters recede.

Instead of dolling out compensation to build homes, the government would do better to kickstart the process by giving farmers free fertilisers and seeds, by providing interest-free crop loans and improving the drainage system.