Responding to a Sea of Suffering
Floods resulting from the torrential rains that hit Pakistan in late July continue to ravage the country. Water has moved along the length of the Indus Valley from north to south, causing massive destruction of agriculture and infrastructure. Power lines, roads, bridges, schools and more than 200 health facilities have been severely damaged.
Even in good times, complications of pregnancy and childbearing represent a leading cause of death among women of reproductive age in Pakistan, with some 260 deaths per 100,000 live births. In the current setting, where trauma, psychological distress, malnutrition and poor sanitation are widespread, and conditions continue to deteriorate, pregnancy becomes far riskier. Moreover, gender-based violence, including sexual violence, can also increase as displacement and uprooting break down the social protection systems.
Addressing reproductive health
The Fund continues to work closely with federal, provincial and district authorities, as well as NGOs, to provide life-saving reproductive health services in a total of 20 districts at present. Within Health Cluster of the coordinated response, UNFPA is co-chairing the reproductive health task force along with the Ministry of Health. As part of the revised Pakistan Floods Emergency Response Plan, UNFPA will be scaling up its flood relief response to eight more districts, including to the province of Balochistan. Additional support is urgently required to scale up life-saving health interventions in affected areas.
The Fund is also providing critical reproductive health supplies, including emergency reproductive health kits and newborn and hygiene kits. Emergency reproductive health kits catering to a population of 4 million for a period of three months have already been sent to the humanitarian hubs in Multan, Sukkur, Hyderabad and Peshawar, and are being distributed to local partners. Additional kits to cover the needs of another 2 million people will become available in the coming weeks.
UNFPA has reported challenges in recruiting adequate numbers of female health care providers (especially gynaecologists) in flood-affected districts. Furthermore, the situation on the ground is ever-changing, with the northern part of the country entering the early recovery phase whereas the south is still in emergency response
Protecting women and girls from violence
With the breakdown of societal norms and structures, women, adolescents and young girls are increasingly exposed to abuse and exploitation. Against tradition, young boys and girls are sleeping in common spaces, women are in contact with men who are not their relatives, and mothers are forced to walk alone in search of firewood and other cooking materials. Compounded with the mass displacement, the destruction of homes and livelihoods, and the limited access to basic hygiene items, women and girls face a heightened risk of violence in the flood-affected regions.
UNFPA is responsible for addressing the protection issues of displaced women and girls, including coordination and harmonization of efforts by the government, UN entities, clusters, cluster lead agencies and NGOs. As co-chair of the gender-based violence sub-cluster, UNFPA will ensure he Fund supports efforts to sensitize communities to these issues, including domestic violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, and early marriage. It also supports training for health care providers to identify, treat, counsel and offer relevant referrals for GBV survivors. It continues its current work with partners to provide psychosocial support to flood-affected communities, particularly to survivors of gender-based violence, and to establish safe spaces for women to gather, develop livelihood skills and receive support and referrals in displacement sites and areas of return.
$17 million funding gap remains
In the revised flood response plan, UNFPA is requesting around $29 million to provide comprehensive reproductive health services, prevent and respond to gender based violence, and provide much-needed hygiene supplies and psychosocial support services through July 2011. Through pledges and contributions from donors and UNFPA’s own resources, nearly $12 million has been mobilized, leaving a funding gap of about $17 million to scale up activities in the recovery phase.
SCALE OF THE CRISIS
- Number of people affected: over 20 million
- Number of those that are women and children: 1.4 million
- Number of villages affected: 16,209
- Number of health facilities damaged: 236 (200 estimated destroyed)
- Number of homes damaged or destroyed: 1.9 million
- Number needing immediate humanitarian assistance: 8 million
- Number of women in reproductive age (among 20 million persons affected): 4.4 million
- Number expected to deliver in the next 12 months: 575,000 (1,700 go into labour every day)
- Number of pregnancy-related complications in next 12 months: 75,000
Special Attention Needed for Pregnant Pakistanis Affected by Floods (UNFPA Press Release)
UN Launches Mass Appeal for Pakistan Flood Relief (UNFPA Press Release)
UNFPA Rushes Delivery and Hygiene Supplies to Flood-Affected Communities in Pakistan (UNFPA Press Release)
Assisting in Emergencies (weblink)