Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Floods, drought, and displacement hit Pakistan’s women hardest

Sarah Irving in the WIP: The monsoon floods in Pakistan have killed thousands and affected an estimated twenty million people across several provinces. According to development organizations working in the country, the humanitarian crisis is yet another blow for Pakistan's rural women. With increasing effects of climate change, the longer-term situation can only get worse.

According to the Pakistani government, a fifth of the country has been affected by the flooding due to monsoon rains. The initial death toll of around 1,600 was comparatively low for an international disaster. But on August 3, a week after the monsoon flooding began in earnest, the World Health Organization called the situation “the worst floods on record.” On August 19, the WHO reported that 200 clinics and hospitals had been destroyed and warned that forty years' worth of health developments in Pakistan had been lost. By August 20, twenty million people had felt the impacts of the floods, and millions had lost homes, crops, livestock, and other property.

…According to the Red Cross, the floods will have affected many of the three million people displaced by fighting in 2009, some of whom had recently started to return home. Local freelance journalist Rooh ul Amin reports similar problems from the 'Tribal Areas' adjoining Afghanistan. There, says Amin, refugees in Internally Displaced Persons' camps were already complaining of inadequate food, water, sanitation, and healthcare. Western NGO workers on the ground have been unable to access some refugee camps and villages because of fallen bridges and washed-out roads. UNICEF staff working with Afghan refugees in one encampment was ordered to evacuate due to the threat of rising floodwaters. Amin emphasized the impact on women, saying that “poverty, mass exodus, and displacement have given birth to social evils, including sexual attacks.”…

The US Army's caption says, "A Chinook in Company B, Task Force Raptor, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Falcon, flies over a bridge destroyed by flood waters, Aug. 11, in the Swat valley, Pakistan. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Monica K. Smith)"

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