About 4 million children in Pakistan are still living near potentially life-threatening flood waters, more than four months after monsoon rains washed away their villages, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
These children are facing skyrocketing rates of acute respiratory infections, exacerbated by the presence of contaminated and stagnant pools of water, UNICEF reported on Sunday evening.
Meanwhile, the number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in flood-affected regions from July to December nearly doubled in comparison to the same period the year before, the agency warned.
In total, about 1.5 million children are still in need of lifesaving nutrition interventions, according to UNICEF.
“Children living in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas have been pushed to the brink,” Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF representative in Pakistan, said in a statement.
“The rains may have ended, but the crisis for children has not,” Fadil continued. “Severe acute malnutrition, respiratory and water-borne diseases coupled with the cold are putting millions of young lives at risk.”
The summer floods in Pakistan claimed 1,700 lives and “left a territory the size of Switzerland under water,” bringing “apocalyptic” conditions to 33 million people, the country’s prime minister, Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian on Friday.
More than 2 million homes, 14,000 kilometers (8,700 miles) of roads and 23,000 schools and clinics were destroyed, the prime minister stressed.
In the southern region of Jacobabad, many families have little more than cloth to protect their makeshift floodwaters, while temperatures regularly plunge to 7 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit) at night, UNICEF reported.
Mountainous and high-altitude areas, which were also affected by the summer floods, are now also contending with snowfall and freezing temperatures, the agency warned.
Thus far, UNICEF and its partners said they have started providing warm clothing, jackets and blankets to about 200,000 children, women and men.
They have screened about 800,000 children for malnutrition, identifying 60,000 as suffering from secretly acute cases — life-threatening conditions in which children are too thin for their height, the agency reported.
Those children have been referred for treatment with “ready-to-use therapeutic food,” an energy-dense micronutrient paste made of peanuts, sugar, milk powder, oil and vitamins, according to UNICEF.
Meanwhile, primary care health interventions have reached about 1.5 million people, and 4.5 million children have been immunized against polio in 16 flood-affected districts, the agency stated.
Humanitarian teams have also brought safe drinking water to more than a million people and hygiene kits to another million.
As Pakistan continues to cope with the devastating effects of the summer floods, UNICEF urged the international community to provide additional assistance and prioritize the needs of the children as they return home.
UNICEF’s ongoing appeal of $173.5 million for this effort thus far remains only 37 percent funded, the agency warned.
“We know the climate crisis played a central role in supercharging the cascading calamities evident in Pakistan,” Fadil said.
“We must do everything within our power to ensure girls and boys in Pakistan are able to fully recover from the current disaster, and to protect and safeguard them from the next one,” he added.