Pakistani children bear the brunt of deadly floods

As the water begins to recede, disease is rife, malnutrition pervasive, and millions of children remain out of school.

Six months on from the severe monsoon rains that left one third of Pakistan underwater and claimed the lives of more than 1,500 people, some nine million children are still in need of emergency support. In the province of Balochistan, which was the worst hit, many roads remain flooded making it hard for aid agencies to deliver much-needed supplies. Access to clean water supply is severely limited and large pools of stagnant water are elevating disease risks.

With millions displaced, fields destroyed, and supply chains broken, access to food also remains difficult and expensive, compounding already high rates of malnutrition.

Meanwhile, damaged schools, blocked roads, and decimated incomes have forced two million children to drop out of education since the rains hit in June.

“The children I have met here have lost everything: loved ones, cherished schoolbooks, the only homes they ever knew, their schools, their sense of security,” said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF regional director for South Asia.

“As the flood waters and the media attention recede, the crisis in Pakistan has become an acute child survival crisis. Frail, hungry children are fighting a losing battle against severe acute malnutrition, diarrhoea, malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, acute respiratory infections, and painful skin conditions. As well as physical ailments, the longer the crisis continues, the greater the risk to children’s mental health.”

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Women collect water from a collapsible water tank installed by UNICEF in Sindh Province. Photo: Asad Zaidi.

UNICEF has launched a US$173m appeal to raise money for the Pakistani families worst affected by the flooding, which has been blamed on rising global temperature caused by climate change.

But as of the end of November, barely one fifth of that amount had been raised and officials have appealed to Gulf donors to support their campaign.

“As winter looms…the boys and girls of Pakistan desperately need our support to survive,” said Laryea-Adjei. “And yet the international appeal for Pakistan remains severely underfunded. Hundreds more children will lose their lives in the coming weeks if international support does not come in to scale up interventions.” 

“Hundreds more children will lose their lives in the coming weeks if international support does not come in to scale up interventions.” 

George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF regional director for South Asia.

In the UAE, which is home to more than 1.2 million Pakistanis, several private companies, including Majid Al Futtaim Group and Al Ansari Exchange, have mobilised to support the relief effort. Emirates, Dubai’s main airline, has offered free cargo for aid supplies going to Pakistan, and several delivery apps are collecting online donations from customers, Careem for UNICEF in collaboration with foodtech start-up Kayroo, Deliveroo for Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), and Talabat for the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP).

Meanwhile, ERC, Dubai Cares, and Sharjah Charity Association launched an initiative called, "We Stand Together", which saw hundreds of volunteers from across the UAE gather at the Dubai Expo site to put together 1,200 tonnes of food and hygiene kits. In parallel, Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, pledged Dhs 50m ($13.6m) of food assistance to be delivered to Pakistan through the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) and WFP.

Elsewhere in the region, the Qatar and Kuwait Red Crescent societies, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief), and the Oman Charitable Organisation (OCO) have also been involved in the collection of donations and relief items.

KSRelief says it raised more than $8m in the first week of its campaign in September, while the Kuwait Red Crescent Society raised over $2m in three days. Bahrain's Royal Humanitarian Foundation has also collaborated with its national carrier, Gulf Air, to airlift aid to Pakistan.

The UNICEF Gulf Office said it had noted “significant support” underlining the region’s deep social, cultural, and religious ties to Pakistan. Peter Tubman, a reports specialist, said more than one million individuals had reacted and engaged with the agency’s campaign, which had raised US$175,000 from the region.

Conversations with government and private sector partners in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are continuing, Tubman said, to find ways to support both the immediate response as well as longer term resilience initiatives to help the affected communities mitigate the future effects of climate change. - PA