Flood victims’ protests hamper aid efforts

Angry outbursts by flood victims reliant on scarce aid are hampering relief work in Pakistan, the Red Cross said, as the nation struggles to cope with its worst-ever natural disaster.

Aid workers say they have fled outbreaks of violence among the frustrated survivors living in makeshift camps, while there have been isolated, spontaneous protests that have occasionally forced road closures.

Aid worker Aslam Khwaja, working for Edhi Foundation, said he had witnessed three violent outbreaks in the past few days in Thatta, in the worst-hit Sindh province.

“People have been getting violent because there’s no coordination among the various aid agencies and the government, which causes delays in providing relief goods and makes people angry,” he said.

The UN has warned that the slow pace of aid pledges could impede relief operations and says Pakistan faces a triple threat to food supplies — with seeds, crops and incomes hit.

The floods have ruined 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) of rich farmland, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said farmers urgently needed seeds to plant for next year’s crops.

In Sindh, hundreds of hungry and desperate families from a relief camp in Thatta blocked the highway to Karachi one morning this week, demanding the government provide more food and shelter.

“No food or water has been provided to us for the past two days,” Mohammad Qasim, a 60-year-old resident of the flooded town of Sujawal, said.

With the deluge flowing south, Sindh irrigation minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo said on Friday that the last two towns lying between the flood and the Arabian Sea had now been completely evacuated.

But he said a breach in a canal had caused new flooding further north in Sindh.

“Around eight million people have been affected by the flood in Sindh and 2.5 million of them were displaced,” Dharejo said.

The government’s official death toll from the floods has reached 1,760, but disaster officials have said that number will likely rise “significantly” when the missing are accounted for.