While “the rains have ended…to a great degree, so has media attention,” UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, Abdullah Fadil, told reporters in Geneva adding that, with homes destroyed, children are facing a “bitter winter, without decent shelter”.
Deadly floods hit Pakistan last summer, and have now only partly receded. 33 million people were affected in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, in what is widely regarded to have been Pakistan’s greatest climate disaster. Villages have reportedly been turned into islands, with many children orphaned and families living under scraps of plastic freezing conditions.
In flood-affected districts, around 1.6 million children were already suffering from severe acute malnutrition, while another six million children suffer from stunting, a condition which can cause irreversible damage to children’s brains, bodies and immune systems.
Recovery efforts underfunded
Post floods, this situation is expected to worsen exponentially, warned Mr. Fadil.
“27 thousand schools have been washed away,” he said, but “UNICEF’s current appeal of $173 million is less than half funded”.
The total of $9 billion, pledged last week by international donors to help Pakistan recover from the catastrophe, was welcomed by Mr. Fadil, who emphasized that “children must be at the centre of recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts”.
The UNICEF spokesperson declared that real economic recovery and sustained growth can only be achieved if the necessary investments to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of children are made, and called for investment in building human capital and resiliency, particularly in rural Sindh and Balochistan where much of the devastation occurred.
“Pakistan is a known climate hotspot, and it is only a matter of time before another large-scale climate disaster strikes the country’s children,” he warned.
Earlier this month, UN chief António Guterres reiterated the need to help developing countries such as Pakistan become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
The UN chief insisted that the international banking system needs radical reform in favour of developing countries, to “right a fundamental wrong”.
The UN development agency, UNDP has warned that an additional nine million people are at risk of being pushed into poverty, on top of the 33 million affected by last summer’s devastating floods in Pakistan.