Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani appealed to the international community and philanthropists at home and abroad to step forward and help the government rescue and rehabilitate victims of the recent torrential rains and flash floods in Sindh.
In a televised address to the nation on Saturday, Gilani said the recent floods and rains have added to the plight of the nation that has already suffered several calamities recently, including the earthquake in 2005, terrorist attacks in 2009 and the devastating floods last year.
President Asif Ali Zardari has appealed to the international community, through the United Nations, for assistance as damage by the recent floods has exceeded initial estimates and millions of flood survivors are waiting for help, he said.
There was 145% more rainfall than the average monsoon, with rains affecting 21 districts of the province especially Badin, Mirpurkhas, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Benazirabad, Jamshoro and Naushehro Feroze, he added.
Measuring the loss
The premier said that following the rains, 141 people have lost their lives, four million have been rendered homeless, 4.1 million acres of land is inundated with 1.7 million acres of crops damaged, 24,000 heads of cattle dead and 0.7 million houses destroyed.
The government responded to the calamity very swiftly and 4,000 relief camps have been set up, with help provided to 195,000 people, he said.
The government has ordered 100,000 tents and is planning to distribute another 100,000 family ration bags to the affected people, he added.
So far, Rs2 billion worth of assistance has been disbursed while the amount is expected to rise to Rs7 billion very soon, the premier said.
The rains are expected to cause more destruction and a comprehensive survey will be conducted after the monsoon is over, he added.
UN starts work in rain-hit areas
The United Nations will begin its multi-million dollar humanitarian assistance programme in Sindh with the Pakistan Disaster Management Authority from Sunday, part of which will include feeding 71,000 people daily.
The “historic” heavy rains started on August 9 and have devastated large swathes of the province that was barely getting back on its feet after last year’s super flood. “The UN team’s presence will boost the morale of the government to rescue the rain-hit rural population,” said the UN’s John Ging, who brings with him the experience of directing the operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. He addressed a press conference after attending a meeting with PDMA officials.
The UN envoy described the situation in Badin as “serious” and said that around 50,000 acres had been affected. “We are initially starting [work] in four sectors,” he said, referring to food, shelter, drinking water and health.
This is the second time in a little less than a year that the international agency is stepping in. Ging said the UN team was here in response to a call by President Asif Ali Zardari and the UN was very concerned with the loss of life, property and damage to infrastructure, besides, livestock and crops. About 71,000 families urgently needed food.
The government has released around Rs700 million for rescue and relief work but, unlike last year, it does not plan to cut back on development funds.
(With additional input from APP)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2011.
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