Relief efforts

Editorial Board
Thursday, Sep 22, 2022

As the flood waters recede, the need for channeling more aid in an appropriate way is becoming more significant. The most pressing need now appears to be for health-related issues for the thousands of people that have become victims of various disease outbreaks in Sindh. The millions of people still displaced by the deluge are an easy target of waterborne diseases. The province needs immediate aid to establish a working healthcare system which at the moment lacks support that is going to other relief operations. One of the most required items are water filtering systems that Pakistan must specifically request donor countries to send. Displaced families are unable to cook anything or even drink water – which is everywhere post-flood but which is not fit to drink. If the government or aid agencies fail to provide water filters to the displaced people, there are likely to be many more disease outbreaks in Sindh.

The second most significant element of aid should be in the area of house building as millions of houses have been washed away, leaving little to rescue or rebuild from. People are gradually heading back to their villages but find nothing left of their belongings and dwellings. The aid that is reaching the flood-affected areas is insufficient and slow to arrive. Their three most needed requirements are clean drinking water, food, and medicines so that they can recoup some energy for restoring their lives back to normal. They can’t rebuild their houses without first being healthy. Over a thousand health centres are reported to be dysfunctional after the floods, something the aid effort must keep in view. It may take months to completely drain the water even if water pumps are there. The authorities must focus on dewatering low-lying areas on a priority basis through pumping. For that, the government must seek more dewatering machinery from donors. As long as the waterlogging continues, people can only wade through a thick sludge of mud even if they simply have to fetch some water for drinking.

The aid must also contain millions of packets of food items that could be consumed without cooking. The incoming aid that just contains ration bags are of no immediate use as there is hardly any place dry enough to set up cooking mechanisms by displaced families. While Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has been urging other countries to continue to make donations for flood-hit families, the UN chief has also been making similar appeals. Unfortunately, the world community has not been able to initiate collective action commensurate with the scale of the tragedy in Pakistan. Climate change has been identified as the primary cause of such disasters and the rich countries must respond with their adequate aid packages for Pakistan – if not the much-needed climate reparations due to the Global South. The prime minister’s address to the 77th session of the UN General Assembly should help highlighte the aid needs of Pakistan. The displacement and devastation that the recent floods have caused is a crisis of immense proportions, and without sufficient aid, it is likely to persist.