ISLAMABAD: Devastating floods in Pakistan have killed at least 528 children and impacted about 16 million others, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday.
Official data by Pakistan’s government shows children and women are becoming more vulnerable to floods, with tens of thousands of people suffering from infectious and water-borne diseases in Pakistan.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), flash floods caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains have killed 1,545 people across the South Asian country since mid-June and affected over 33 million.
“The catastrophic floods in Pakistan have now claimed the lives of at least 528 children, according to the latest Government figures. Each and every one of these deaths is a tragedy that could have been averted,” UNICEF Pakistan Representative Abdullah Fadil said in a statement.
Fadil warned that without a “massive increase in support”, many more children would lose their lives. The UNICEF official further said the situation for Pakistani families is beyond bleak and malnourished children are battling diarrhea and malaria, dengue fever, and many are suffering from painful skin conditions.
Fadil said a lot of Pakistani mothers in flood-hit areas are anaemic and malnourished themselves and have very low-weight babies.
“An estimated 16 million children have been impacted by these ‘super floods’ and at least 3.4 million girls and boys remain in need of immediate, lifesaving support,” he said.
Fadil added that “young children are living out in the open with their families, with no drinking water, no food, and no livelihood, exposed to a wide range of new flood-related risks and hazards - including from damaged buildings, drowning in flood waters and snakes.”
He said vital infrastructure that children rely on, including thousands of schools, water systems and health facilities, has been destroyed and damaged.
Thousands of families have been displaced by the floods, with many children separated from their parents due to the deluge.
“Many children will have already experienced shock and distress from having lost their loved ones, their homes and their cherished possessions,” the UNICEF Pakistan representative said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who visited Pakistan’s flood-battered areas earlier this week, blamed the crisis on the effects of climate change.
Fadil said children are paying the price for a climate disaster that is not of their making. He urged the world to help Pakistan today but also to begin looking at the months ahead and the need to rebuild the lives of millions of vulnerable children.
Pakistan has estimated damages inflicted by the floods to be somewhere around $40 billion. At one point, a third of the country’s territory was said to be inundated, with the hard-hit province of Sindh suffering massive damages.