UN begins massive relief operation for flood victims

KARACHI: The UN refugee agency mounted a massive airlift relief operation for over 33 million victims of the disastrous floods.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the first three flights from Dubai arrived in Pakistan Tuesday while five more are on their way with relief goods. Additional six flights are also scheduled from Dubai for Wednesday and Thursday, the UN agency said in a statement.

The aid includes 40,000 sleeping mats, nearly 15,000 kitchen sets, and some 5,000 multi-purpose tarpaulins.

Another 4,500 sleeping mats, 400 tarpaulins, and nearly 5,000 kitchen sets will reach the flood-hit South Asian country in the next two days, said the agency.

Meanwhile, tents for 11,000 families are also on the way in trucks from Uzbekistan.

People camped along roadsides to escape surrounding flood waters are facing many challenges, said the agency, adding initially they are providing assistance to 50,000 households.

“Most (of the displaced people) want to stay close to home, hoping to go back soon. The authorities need much more support with shelter, relief supplies, and technical expertise. UNHCR and partners are helping authorities to conduct rapid humanitarian needs assessments,” it added.

The agency warned that the situation could deteriorate as the Meteorological Department has forecast more rains in the coming month.

“This [more rain] will increase challenges for flood survivors, and likely worsen conditions for nearly half a million displaced people, forcing more to abandon their homes,” said UNHCR.

So far, 1,325 people, including 466 children, have lost their lives while over 12,700 others have been wounded since mid-June.

The destructive floods also damaged over 1.68 million houses, with 559,992 houses completely destroyed.

“Pakistan and its people have hosted millions of Afghan refugees for over four decades, with some 1.3 million currently registered in the country. UNHCR is standing in solidarity with the country and its people — as we did during the devastating 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods.

“But the scale of the devastation requires urgent international support. The impact of the global climate crisis on countries like Pakistan must be shared by the international community. Much more will be needed to help Pakistan to overcome this catastrophe and rebuild when the waters subside,” said the UN agency.

Humanitarian situation in Afghanistan

The UN agency also expressed concerns over the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan after recent floods and an earthquake.

UNHCR supported some 35 villages to build 2,300 earthquake-resilient winterized houses with stoves, solar panels, and latrines in areas hit by the earthquake in June.

“The humanitarian situation across the country remains very difficult, particularly as another harsh winter season approaches. More than 24 million people – over half the population — need assistance,” said the agency, adding that some 3.4 million people remain displaced, with most living in difficult conditions.

UNHCR said that the security situation has improved in the country since mid-2021 and so far more than one million internally displaced people (IDPs) have returned to their homes.

According to the agency, over 40 percent of IDPs want to return to their homes as soon as possible and they are planning to reach and provide assistance and reintegration support to 620,000 displaced people this year.

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