Up to 3.5 million children are at high risk from deadly water-borne diseases in Pakistan following the country’s floods, a UN spokesman has said. In southern Pakistan, floods continue to cause havoc with water surging from the province of Sindh to neighbouring Balochistan.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who visited Pakistan, said the floods were the worst disaster he had seen. However, the UN has so far only raised a fraction of the aid it has asked for.
” “What concerns us the most is water and health. Clean water is essential to prevent deadly water-borne diseases. Water during the flood has been contaminated badly,” he added. The World Health Organization was also preparing to assist tens of thousands of people in case of cholera, although the government has not notified the UN of any confirmed cases, he added. He estimated the number at risk from such diseases was six million.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the BBC that he feared the growing desperation of flood victims could play into the hands of extremists. But he said troops fighting insurgents in the north had not been redeployed to help the relief effort.
We are not going to permit militants to take advantage of this situation,” he said. Speaking later at a press conference, Mr Qureshi said Nato officials were in talks with Islamabad on setting up an “air bridge” to fly in relief to cut-off areas.
In southern Pakistan, angry flood survivors blocked a main road in Sindh province to protest against the slow delivery of aid and demanded more action from the authorities.
One of the protesters, Mohammad Laiq, said the government had to do more to help people. “There seems to be no government here since the floods. We lost our children, our livestock, we could hardly save ourselves – though we have come here but we are getting nothing.
“Where is the government? What do we do? Where do we go? We have to tell the government and it is the responsibility of the government to do whatever is possible,” he said.
Saleem Bokhari, whose village in the Layyah District of Punjab is under water, told the BBC that the situation was worsening moment by moment. “Due to standing water there is a rapid production of mosquitoes, abdominal disease, fever, malaria and skin diseases,” he said. “Government officials and volunteers are only reaching the cities. Villages or remote areas are helpless.”
Call for world help
On Sunday, Mr Ban again urged the world to speed up aid to the country, saying shelter and medicine were desperately needed. Last week, the UN launched a $459m (£294m) appeal for emergency aid for Pakistan. It said that billions of dollars would be needed in the long-term.
But charities say the response to the UN’s appeal has been sluggish. The US has made the biggest contribution so far, followed by the UK. Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has branded the international response as “lamentable”.
Officials at the OCHA and the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Monday that Pakistan suffered from an “image deficit” with the Western public because of associations with the Taliban and widespread corruption.
The Pakistani government says up to 20 million people have now been affected by the monsoon floods.At least 1,500 people are known to died. The flooding began more than two weeks ago in the mountainous north-west and has swept south across a quarter of the country, including its agricultural heartland.