More aid needed in Pakistan affected by catastrophic floods, says UNHCR

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The United Nations refugee agency has provided 10,000 tents and thousands of other relief items such as plastic tarpaulins, cooking stoves and sleeping mats to displaced families in Pakistan as the flood crisis deepens.

Thousands of sacks have also been distributed to help households build sandbag defences around their homes.

While the torrents are receding in many parts of the country, the death toll has surged past 1,200 as torrential rain turning into a flood wave washed away a number of villages in its path.

Pakistan blames climate change for the recent heavy monsoon rains that triggered floods that affected one-third of the large Asian country.

With partner DANESH, UNHCR has supported 69 families, including refugees and host communities in Quetta.

In a statement Friday, the refugee agency said although the outcome of Tuesday’s funding appeal from the United Nations was “very encouraging," yet more help is needed.

“Our staff in the country report that the scale of the devastation that people face is unimaginable," said UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh.

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So far, Pakistan has received aid from China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan, the United Arab Emirates and other countries. This week, the US also announced it would provide €30 million worth of aid for the flood victims.

Several flights from the UAE have landed, and the first from Uzbekistan arrived on Thursday night as a military-backed rescue operation elsewhere in the country reached more of the 3 million people affected by the disaster.

Meanwhile, a Turkish delegation headed by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to convey his condolences to him over damages caused by floods.

Multiple officials have also attributed the unusual monsoon and flooding to climate change, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who earlier this week called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” through the deadly crisis.

Guterres will visit Pakistan on 9 September to tour flood-hit areas and meet with officials.

According to initial government estimates, the devastation has caused €10 billion in damages.

Since 1959, Pakistan has emitted about 0.4% of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, compared to 21.5% by the US and 16.4% by China, according to scientists and experts.

Pakistani officials and experts say there’s been a 400% increase in average rainfall in Pakistan's areas like Baluchistan and Sindh, which led to the extreme flooding.

Earlier this week, the UN and Islamabad jointly issued an appeal for €160 million in emergency funding to help the millions of people affected by floods that have damaged over 1 million homes.

On Friday, authorities were warning people in the district of Dadu in the southern Sindh province to move to safer places ahead of floodwater from the swollen Indus river that's expected to hit the region this week.

In May, some parts of Sindh were the hottest place in Pakistan. Now people are facing floods there that have caused an outbreak of waterborne diseases as many districts in Sindh are still underwater.

According to Farah Naureen, the director for Pakistan at the international aid agency Mercy Corps, around 73,000 women will be giving birth within the next month, and they needed skilled birth attendants, privacy, and birth facilities.

Otherwise, she said, the survival of the mother and the newborn will be at risk.

The military, and rescuers, backed by troops, resumed rescue and relief operations early Friday.

Rescuers are mostly using boats, but helicopters are also flying to evacuate stranded people from remote flood-hit towns, villages and districts across Pakistan areas and deliver food to them.

Since mid-June, floods have also killed 733,488 goats, cows, and buffaloes, apart from damaging crops. It forced Pakistan's government to start importing vegetables to avoid a shortage of food.

Pakistan is also in contact with Russia to import wheat, as floods destroyed grains stored by many villagers in homes to meet their whole year's needs.

The country has suffered regular flooding in the past, but this year has been on a different scale, closer to the catastrophic floods of 2010 that left almost 2,000 people dead.

This year some 33 million people have been affected by torrential rains and flash floods that have left 6,4 million people in need of shelter as well as food and other essentials.