Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pakistan flood crisis as bad as African famines, UN says

Declan Walsh in the Guardian (UK): A "humanitarian crisis of epic proportions" is unfolding in flood-hit areas of southern Pakistan where malnutrition rates rival those of African countries affected by famine, according to the United Nations.

In Sindh province, where some villages are still under water six months after the floods, almost one quarter of children under five are malnourished while 6% are severely underfed, a Floods Assessment Needs survey has found. "I haven't seen malnutrition this bad since the worst of the famine in Ethiopia, Darfur and Chad. It's shockingly bad," said Karen Allen, deputy head of Unicef in Pakistan.

The survey reflects the continuing impact of the massive August floods, which affected 20 million people across an area the size of England, sweeping away 2.2m hectares of farmland. The figures were alarming, Neva Khan, of Oxfam, said. "Emergency aid right after the floods saved many lives, but, as these figures show, millions are at serious risk," she said.

…But the figures highlight a broader truth: that Sindh, a ragged province where poor peasants toil under powerful landlords, has long had some of the worst poverty levels in South Asia. "This sort of thing doesn't happen overnight. It indicates deep, slow-grinding poverty," said Dorothy Blane, of Concern.

The most recent nutrition survey across Pakistan in 2002 found a national malnutrition rate of 13.2%. The survey of 786 households, jointly carried out by the UN, aid agencies and the government, recorded global malnutrition rates of 23.1% in northern Sindh and 21.2% in the southern part of the province….

The Indus River delta seen from space, via NASA

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