The flood victims who poured out of their homes in a panic-stricken sea of humanity from July to September last year, as the worst floods in living memory devastated the country, have been largely forgotten. The cameras have swung away, volunteers moved on from camps, government attention switched to other issues and funding slowed down to a trickle. International concern has faded as the inevitable ‘compassion fatigue’ sets in. But the agony of tens of thousands of flood victims continues, aggravated by colder weather and reduced attention from both official and unofficial quarters.
A recent report from a camp, housing some 2,700 people in Karachi, speaks of at least, four newborn deaths, primarily as a result of, lack of healthcare for expecting mothers. A lack of protection from winter winds and a reduction in food supplies adds to the suffering of pregnant women and infants. This holds true not only for the camp in Karachi but also in other parts of the country. Freezing weather in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, much of Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan leaves many without adequate shelter and at the mercy of the elements. International agencies report an increase in respiratory infections, most notably among small children. The lack of medical facilities adds to their suffering.
The flood may be over, but its aftermath persists. It will be many months, perhaps years, before anything resembling a full recovery is possible. Persons active in the relief effort report large-scale malnutrition, especially among women already weakened by multiple pregnancies. We need to see far greater initiative to assist the victims of the disaster. The government needs to take the lead in this, but other sections of society can also play a part by ensuring the people affected by the floods are not abandoned to suffer on their own, as has happened at the camp in Karachi and others like it scattered across Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2011.
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