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WFP, UNICEF Heads Appeal For More Flood Aid For Pakistan

After touring flood-hit areas in Pakistan on Tuesday, the executive directors of UNICEF and the World Food Program (WFP) appealed for more flood relief aid, VOA News reports (Maroney, 8/31).

WFP head Josette Sheeran “warned during a joint press conference in the capital, Islamabad, that there is a triple threat unfolding as the crisis widens and deepens,” U.N. News Centre writes. “People have lost seeds, crops and their incomes leaving them vulnerable to hunger, homelessness and desperation – the situation is extremely critical. We urgently need continued and strengthened commitment to the people of Pakistan in this time of crisis,” Sheeran said.

“What I saw today has convinced me that we must step up our humanitarian operations to stave off a potential second wave of disease and misery for millions of families, especially the most vulnerable, children and women,” Anthony Lake, the head of UNICEF, said.

Guido Sabatinelli, WHO’s representative in Pakistan, said the “increasing trend of diarrhoeal diseases remains a grave concern to the humanitarian community.” According to Sabatinelli, “The current situation remains a major threat to public health. If the current poor environmental and hygiene situation in affected areas does not improve, coupled with limited availability of safe drinking water and the need for better access to health services, the risk is we may see more potentially fatal diarrhoeal and other acute waterborne diseases cases in coming days” (8/31).

Meanwhile, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Wednesday said that Pakistan’s upcoming wheat planting season is at risk, Reuters reports (Kovalyova, 9/1).

“Wheat, the staple food of the rural poor in Pakistan, is due to be planted in September through to November. More than half a million tonnes of wheat seed stocks have been destroyed by the floods,” a statement from the organization says.

“Unless people get seeds over the next few weeks they will not be able to plant wheat for a year,” said Daniele Donati, the head of FAO Emergency Operations, Asia, Near East, Europe and Special Emergencies. “Food aid alone will not be enough. If the next wheat crop is not salvaged, the food security of millions will be at risk.”

To address the situation, FAO called for funding, noting that crops can be planted in some areas. “In many areas it will be possible to plant as soon as the water recedes. FAO and its cluster partners have the capacity to get seed to these areas provided we receive urgently needed funding. But the window of opportunity is closing as the planting season ends in mid November,” Donati said (9/1).

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani discussed the “large scale” damage to infrastructure in a televised address on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reports.

“We need to bring in a lot more (food). We’re still looking at a caseload in urgent need of about six million but with the floodwaters still moving it’s quite possible that number will increase,” said WFP spokesperson Marcus Prior.

Also on Wednesday, “[h]undreds of hungry families blocked a highway in Pakistan’s flood-hit south … demanding the government provide more food,” the news service writes. “Up to 500 people from a government-run relief camp in Thatta city, in the worst-hit province of Sindh, blocked the main road between Karachi city and Thatta for three hours calling for the state to provide food and shelter” (Mansoor, 9/1).