Pakistan Flood Assessments Reveal 'Bleak' Picture, Huge Needs

The picture that Christian relief groups have been painting of southern Pakistan following the region's massive flooding has been bleak with at least one describing the needs there as "huge."

"People are in urgent need of almost everything: shelter, health clinics, clean water, sanitation and livelihood support," reported Mike Bailey, World Vision's regional manager for advocacy. "And that's just what we gleaned from the areas we can reach. Flooding and the damage it has left behind mean there are areas we want to help that we still can't reach."

In its most recent report, World Vision said assessments conducted over the last few days near the towns of Muzaffar Garh and Kot Addo in Punjab as well as Sukkur in the Sindh Province reveal the situations there to be dire.

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The aid agency also said contaminated water, cramped living conditions and a lack of sanitation are contributing to a rapid increase in cases of diarrhea and skin diseases in children.

In a survey of households in Punjab, World Vision found that the main health problems for children include coughs (32 percent), stomach and intestinal infections (30 percent), and skin infections (14%). For older children, the primary problems are coughs (25 percent), skin infections (25 percent), and stomach and intestinal infections (18 percent).

 "In conditions like these, something as simple as a cough can turn into a deadly case of pneumonia; a lack of clean water is likely to result in diarrhea for a small child," said Bailey.

"The fact is that many of these families may not be able to return home for at least three months, if not longer. Lack of adequate shelter, combined with an extreme shortage of health care and medicine, is making this disaster that much worse," he added.

According to the United Nations, there are approximately 4.6 million people without shelter as a result of the floods, which were brought on by heavy monsoon rains.

Thousands of people are on the move within the country, either to seek shelter with relatives and friends or returning to assess damages to their homes and property.

And even for those affected families who have some form of shelter – in most cases tents or partially damaged homes – the living conditions are "terrible," reported the ACT Alliance.

Prolonged stay under these circumstances poses health and other risks that could lead to a second wave of deaths, added the alliance of church groups and related agencies in its latest report.

Earlier this week, the World Evangelical Alliance issued an appeal to the global Christian community to give generously, financially as well as in prayer.

"This 'creeping tsunami' impacting the lives of millions of people in Pakistan must be met with a robust response from the Christian community worldwide," commented WEA International Director Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe.

"The vast suffering in Pakistan is, for most of us, unimaginable," added WEA Associate International Director Gordon Showell-Rogers. "International support is desperately needed."

According to reports, local charities, the Pakistani army and international agencies are providing food, water, medicine and shelter to the displaced, but millions have received little or no help.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, on Monday, said recovering from the devastating floods still battering Pakistan will take at least three years.

The U.N. estimates that more than 17 million people have been affected by the floods, which resulted in around 1,600 deaths.

Christian relief agencies currently working on the ground in Pakistan include World Vision International, Tearfund International, The Salvation Army International, Medical Assistance Program International, and Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, among others.

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