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WHO Director-General In Pakistan To Monitor Flood Relief, Polio Vaccinations

The WHO will continue to support efforts to boost polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said recently during talks with Pakistani health officials, the Associated Press of Pakistan reports. Chan was in the country to review health relief operations in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas.

“Polio eradication is a major concern as 97 cases of polio have been reported since January this year by Pakistani health authorities,” Chan said, adding that half the cases have occurred in tribal areas “where the security situation restricts access to health care for many children, including for polio vaccination.” She highlighted the need for health efforts to reach those without easy access.

During her trip, she visited diarrhea treatment and nutrition centers and expressed concern about the rise of malnutrition. “WHO will provide financial support to the nutrition stabilization centers in districts not yet funded for at least the next three months as an emergency measure,” said Guido Sabatinelli, WHO’s representative in Pakistan (10/29).

Aid Agencies Highlight Unmet Aid Needs, Severity Of The Disaster

Pascal Cuttat, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Pakistan, said the world might never understand the full extent of the recent floods in Pakistan while hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who have been affected by them are likely to go without aid, Reuters AlertNet reports.

Cuttat “said the drawn-out nature of the crisis and its huge geographic scale have made it difficult for aid agencies to assess and respond to the emergency,” the news service writes. “It means that the number of people affected in this slow-moving disaster is something we’ll never know … and the combined capacity of international actors with national actors, including the (Pakistani) armed forces, will not be good enough,” he said. “There will be hundreds of thousands – or even millions – who have received absolutely nothing, and the impact on the social fabric in these areas will be hard to work out,” Cuttat added.

He also noted that other factors complicate flood relief activties and said there will be a need for aid for some time. “In many areas, armed violence and natural disasters combine to make such a difficult situation, and with the (poor) security, it is not possible to do what needs to be done,” he said (Rowling, 10/28). 

On Friday, aid organization Oxfam released a statement saying that cases of disease are increasing in flood-affected Pakistan, while aid was diminishing, CNN reports. “When the world’s attention was focused on Pakistan’s flood victims, there was a chance of seeing substantial aid being delivered. But as the worst of the flood waters have receded, so has the promise of significant funding,” said Neva Khan, Oxfam’s director in Pakistan.

Oxfam cited U.N. statistics indicating that 10 million people need immediate food aid. “The funding shortfall is so serious that existing regular food rations to 3.5 million people could be in jeopardy,” Oxfam said (10/29).

“Funds for the U.N. flood appeal are drying up and threatening the aid and reconstruction effort,” according to the statement, which marks the third month since heavy monsoon rains started in the country, Agence France-Presse reports. “Cases of disease are increasing and large areas remain under water in southern Sindh province,” said Oxfam, adding that “[a]s winter approaches, seven million people are still without adequate shelter.”

Stacey Winston, a U.N. spokesperson, “said the United Nations and its partner agencies were doing everything possible to help the victims but warned: ‘It is simply not enough. We need to have more money,'” the news service writes. “The emergency still continues in Sindh and people are surrounded by water,” she said (Jaffry, 10/29).

Without more resources, Pakistan’s emergency food aid will run out by December, said Martin Mogwanja, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan, the U.N. New Centre writes. “The $2 billion appeal for aid for Pakistani flood victims, the largest-ever launched by the U.N. and its partners for a natural disaster, is currently 39 percent funded,” according to the news service. Elisabeth Byrs, spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “underscored the need for more contributions to the appeal, noting that some key sectors such as food security, health and camp coordination and management were ‘seriously underfunded.’ Humanitarian assistance, notably in Sindh province, where 7.2 million people remained affected by the floods, was vital ahead of the winter, she told reporters in Geneva. The water has receded in some places, but it might take more than six months before other areas dried up” (10/29).

In related news, IRIN examines the challenges for “[t]housands of flood victims in Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan Province,” who arrived in that area in mid-August seeking aid and have been unable to return home (10/31).