Pak flood threatens to submerge Thatta; forces mass exodus

UN warned that an estimated 72,000 children were at "high risk of death" due to malnutrition.

Updated: Aug 29, 2010, 00:44 AM IST

Islamabad: Flood waters on Saturday breached more protective dykes and threatened to submerge the southern city of Thatta and nearby regions forcing a mass exodus, even
as the UN warned that an estimated 72,000 children were at "high risk of death" due to malnutrition.

Pakistan`s worst floods have affected 17 million of its population. Triggered a month ago by unusually heavy monsoon rains, the flood waters have made their way south after wreaking havoc in the northwest and central parts of the country.

A fresh wave of flooding in the flatlands of Sindh has displaced one million people since Wednesday.

The total number of people affected in the province is seven million. Tens of thousands of people have already fled Thatta, which was further threatened today after the
swollen Indus river broke through more bunds and dykes.

Officials said it could take up to three days to repair the new breaches. The situation in flooded areas of Sindh province has been exacerbated by high tides in the Arabian Sea, which have forced the waters of the Indus to flow back inland.

Aid agencies are becoming increasingly worried about malnutrition among children in flooded areas.

"If nothing is done, an estimated 72,000 children, currently affected by severe acute malnutrition in the flood-affected areas, are at high risk of death," said Martin
Mogwanja, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan.

"We are responding to the threat of malnutrition and must do so even more assertively," he said.

Even before the floods, acute malnutrition was high across the country. Twenty-seven percent of children under five years were malnourished in Balochistan while the figures
for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab were 13 percent and 17 percent respectively.

"We must act together to ensure that already malnourished children do not succumb to disease, and to prevent more from becoming malnourished and ill," said

The UNICEF warned of the fallout of the "deadly synergy" of waterborne diseases like diarrhoea and malnutrition in flooded areas.

It said it was addressing this threat through vaccinations, provision of clean water, and the supply of water purification tablets and hygiene kits.

The floods have already killed over 1,700 people and affected 20 million. They have also inflicted billions of dollars of damage to homes, infrastructure and agriculture.

Flood victims in Sindh and other parts of the country have complained that not enough aid is being provided to them. In most flooded areas, the government has struggled
to provide food, water and shelter to the displaced.

At several places, the survivors blocked roads to protest the shortage of relief materials.

The International Organisation for Migration, which is coordinating efforts by aid agencies to provide shelter to the displaced, said over 115,000 tents and 88,500 plastic sheets had been provided to 159,500 families.

However, it pointed out that over 642,000 families still required shelter support.