One year after catastrophic floods devastated large areas of PakistanSome 4 million children in the South Asian nation remain without access to clean drinking water, the United Nations agency for children has warned.
In a press release on Friday, UNICEF said it estimates there are 8 million people in the country, around half of whom are children, who continue to live in flood-affected areas without safe drinking water.
“Vulnerable children living in flood-affected areas have endured a horrible year,” Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF representative in Pakistan, said in the statement.
“They lost their loved ones, their homes and schools. As the monsoon rains return, the fear of another weather disaster looms large. Recovery efforts continue, but many remain unarrived and the children of Pakistan are at risk of being forgotten.”
Floods caused by record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in Pakistan’s northern highlands last year killed nearly 1,600 people – more than a third of whom were children – and affected an estimated 33 million more. .
Floods submerged a third of the country, and the force of the water washed away homes, leaving tens of thousands of people stranded on the roads with no food to eat or clean water to drink.
Some 30,000 schools, 2,000 health facilities and 4,300 water systems were damaged or destroyed, UNICEF said.
“The weather-related disaster deepened pre-existing inequities for children and families in the affected districts,” UNICEF said in the statement. “A third of children were no longer in school before the floods, malnutrition was reaching emergency levels, and access to safe drinking water and sanitation was worryingly low.”
As the floodwaters began to recede, a host of water-related diseases began to infect thousands of people, many of whom were children. Parents desperately tried to seek help when their children contracted diarrhoea, dysentery, dengue fever and malaria.
The floods came as Pakistan was already grappling with a severe economic crisis, further exacerbating the economic misery of millions of people, pushing families into poverty and leaving many unable to afford essential items such as food, fuel and medicine.
The country’s situation has been further complicated by the political turmoil that has engulfed the nation in recent months. after former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested on corruption charges, sparking deadly protests.
Khan was dramatically ousted from power in a vote of no confidence last year, after numerous accusations of misgovernance, including economic mismanagement. He claims that the accusations against him are political and are led by the country’s powerful military.
Last month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $3 billion bailout for Pakistan, giving the cash-strapped country a moment’s respite in what has been a tumultuous year.
Until recently, the government had imposed strict controls on imports and the outflow of dollars, stifling private sector activity, according to an April World Bank report.
But a condition of the IMF loan was that Pakistan allow the country to return to a market-based exchange rate, “suggesting that the authorities now have limited room or appetite for monetary intervention,” according to Shivaan Tendon, an economist. Emerging Asia at Capital Economics.
Analysts say this may have contributed to a fall in the Pakistani rupee this week, whose currency is currently trading at 301 to the US dollar.
“We see the unfortunate consequence of a wave of panic when IMF conditions force the government to open up trade,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.
Tendon also said the country was experiencing higher imports, which “probably put some pressure on the currency as demand for (US) dollars increased.”
“There seem to be a few factors at play,” he told CNN.
“Several emerging market currencies have come under pressure as dollar-denominated assets have become more attractive due to rising US bond yields. The Pakistan rupee is particularly vulnerable to risk aversion among investors due to high inflation, unfavorable fiscal dynamics and a wide external financing gap.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s poverty rate has reached a staggering 21.9%, covering more than a fifth of the population, according to IMF data.
Crushing poverty has led many to flee the country. Widespread hunger and rising prices have caused stress, anxiety and despair. In April, during Islam’s holy month Ramadan, hundreds of people lined the streets to receive a single free bag of flour, sparking deadly stampedes and mayhem.
UNICEF also warned earlier this month that the effects of the climate crisis and other extreme weather events are having a devastating impact on children in South Asia.
Almost 500 million children The region’s inhabitants are exposed to extremely high temperatures as potentially deadly heat waves caused by the climate crisis become stronger and more frequent, he said.
Their analysis of 2020 data showed that approximately 460 million children in countries including Afghanistan, India and Pakistan were exposed to temperatures where 83 or more days a year exceeded 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), making South Asia in the region most affected by those under 18 years of age.
UNICEF’s Fadil said the agency has called on the Pakistani government and partners to “increase and sustain investment in basic social services for children and families.”
He added: “We cannot forget the children of Pakistan. The floods have subsided, but problems remain in this climatically volatile region.”