Pakistan: Humanitarian agencies on standby after deadly flash floods

12 Aug 2013

July 2013, Pubjab, Pakistan: A house destroyed by floods in Dera Ghazi Khan District in the centre of Pakistan. The first of Pakistan's annual monsoon floods have displaced more than 80,000 people across the country. Credit: OCHA/Samiullah Wali.
The humanitarian community in Pakistan is on high alert following the first, deadly floods of the 2013 monsoon season. But preparedness efforts have been hindered by a lack of funding.

Humanitarian organizations in Pakistan are on high alert following flash floods that have affected tens of thousands of people across the country. However, preparedness efforts are being hindered by a lack of funding.

The floods, triggered by the first spell of Pakistan’s annual monsoon rains, have claimed 80 lives and displaced more than 80,000 people in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh provinces, according to reports from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Over 135,000 acres of crops have been inundated and ruined, and more than 4,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed.

“The impact could be even worse as some areas are cut off by flood waters,” says OCHA’s Samiullah Wali, who has been assessing damage in the Rajanpur District of Punjab Province.

Plans are in place, but funds are not

The humanitarian community in Pakistan has been preparing for the monsoon season since January, says OCHA Pakistan Head of Office Lynn Hastings.

“We have plans that we developed with Government authorities at national and provincial levels, and we have identified the supplies we need as well as where we should be pre-positioning them,” she said.

“But, worryingly, emergency stocks are generally low due to funding constraints.”

Humanitarian activities in Pakistan are generally underfunded - a worrying trend that has been evident since the mega-floods of 2010. Over the past three years, seasonal floods have affected some 30 million people, many of them multiple times. Unfortunately, funding for humanitarian response to the floods has significantly decreased each year – from 70 per cent in 2010, to 44 per cent in 2011, and to 33 per cent in 2012.

Each year, this lack of resources left many needs unaddressed, and many communities ill-equipped to face new floods or challenges.

Authorities managing response so far

The Pakistan Meteorological Department has predicted relatively heavy rains in northwest Pakistan and moderate to heavy spells in western and southern parts of the country in the coming weeks. Fresh flood warnings have already been issued for Punjab province.

So far, the response has been led by state and district-level authorities, with support from the army and navy. Authorities in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh provinces have distributed thousands of tents, food parcels and mosquito nets, along with blankets and pumps to help remove flood water from homes and buildings.

The World Health Organization has provided the Balochistan Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) with 60,000 water purification tablets and emergency health and diarrhoeal disease kits for 5,000 people.

“Since the beginning of the year we have been working with the government and partners to prepare for this monsoon season,” says OCHA’s Hastings. “We have done what we can to get ready, but if funding doesn’t come through soon, the impact of these floods will be much more severe than it needs to be.”