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Normally, I confine myself to professional topics, but the flood situation is grave and affects all of us, hence these posts.
Massive floods have wreaked havoc with lives, livestock, crops, and infrastructure on a huge scale. With a cursory look, we may not be able to grasp the severity of the situation. Some statistics may help to understand the extent of damage.
- Around 80 districts have been declared as “calamity hit” by the National Flood Response Coordination Center.
- About one third of the country is inundated with flood water
- Over 33 million people have been affected, which is one in seven people, or 14% population
- 1,302 people have lost lives, 12, 588 have been injured. It is still not the final tally.
- Over a million livestock has been lost
- According to the latest estimates, 8.25 million acres agriculture land and crops – cotton, wheat, vegetables, and fruits – have been destroyed. If the water does not recede quickly, it will cause further damage to wheat crop
- Over 500,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed
- More than 800 health facilities have been damaged; 180 have been completely destroyed
- At least 18,000 schools have been damaged or destroyed
- Numerous roads and bridges have been swept away
- The estimated cost of loss is about 18 billion US dollars, which is beyond Pakistan’s means and resources.
- The time to rebuild is still unclear, but it may take upward of a year or more, depending upon the scale and quality of rehabilitation
The most immediate task is to drain water from the flooded areas. Wherever it has to get to, measures are needed to expedite the process. People are living on the roads, in the camps, and in the structures which are still standing. Many have moved far from their homeplaces to live in shelter houses. As the water recedes, the people shall be able to go back to their places and start their life. It would be difficult after losing everything but living in a temporary shelter shall keep their lives stalled.
The other immediate relief measure is to provide food, medicines, clothing, bedding, shelter and so on. Weather will start changing in a few days and nights under the open sky or in the makeshift camps shall become very difficult.
Standing water is causing spread of various water-borne diseases. Mosquitoes have invaded with a vengeance and malaria and dengue have risen sharply. Other water-borne diseases like cholera, gastroenteritis, and typhoid shall follow. Protecting from mosquitoes with the help of nets and spraying on standing waters are also measures needing immediate attention.
Provision of medicines is urgently required. A sizeable quantity has been destroyed which was stored in the health centers. Government may divert stocks from the center immediately while it gets more supplies through donations locally and internationally, aid, and fresh purchases. Medical and paramedical staff is also desperately required for treating children and adults.
Out of 33 million affected people, 16 million are estimated to be children. Their health and nutritional needs demand urgent attention.
An estimated 66,000 pregnant women are also among the flood affectees. Ensuring their and their children’s health, making arrangements for safe deliveries and neonatal care, and protecting newborns from epidemics are also among top priority.
Basic rehabilitation of people who can go back to their areas is also top priority agenda.
The sum up is that it will take very hard work to assess, plan and execute the relief efforts. Two types of resources are needed: one, the government/non-government machinery to make accurate and unbiased assessment of damage and rehabilitation needs; two, the economic resources to carry out rehabilitation effort.
About the machinery and mechanism, many doubts are raised, and many shadows are described. The doubts are about the capability, capacity, intent, impartiality, fair play, and justice. Unfortunately, our governments do not enjoy the confidence of masses which hurts in many ways. If the assessment is faulty, partial, and biased, it will add to suffering of people and seriously damage the relief effort.
About the economic resources, the situation is even more grim. Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Accounts have been opened in all banks, but people are not willing to deposit money there due to lack of trust. PTI Chairman claimed to collect five billion rupees in a massive telethon, but it has not materialized. There are accusations and counteraccusations. One side says, it was all a hoax and that sum of money was never collected. The other side says the banks are forcing that the money be deposited in the PM relief fund, not the PTI fund. We do not know what is true. We do know that the government does not have money for the huge effort looking at it in the face. We also know people are supporting in other ways, not through government. The individual efforts, however, need to be looked into, which we shall do in the next post.
To be Continued…….
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