Oxfam warns of severe health crisis in Pakistan as flood funding stalls

by Oxfam | Oxfam GB - UK
Thursday, 9 September 2010 09:47 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Trebling of disease in less than three weeks underlines need for further funding International aid agency Oxfam today (9 September 2010) warned of a public health catastrophe in flood-hit Pakistan.  The aid agency said while funding had stalled in recent weeks, the number of cases of reported disease, numbers of people displaced, and numbers of people affected by the floods continues to rise each day. The initial UN appeal, launched to meet the immediate needs of 6 million Pakistanis, is 67 percent funded, an increase of only ten percent in the past two and a half weeks. During this same period, the number of cases of acute diarrhea, skin diseases, acute respiratory infections and suspected malaria have more than trebled. Skin diseases have leapt from 260,000 to 860,000 cases, acute diarrhea has leapt from 200,000 to 610,000 cases, and acute respiratory infections have leapt from 200,000 to 670,000 cases. The UN appeal was hastily prepared when the floods began and does not reflect current needs.  Since it was launched the number of people affected by the floods has increased from 14 million to 21 million with 10 million displaced and eight million in need of immediate assistance as the floodwaters have flowed south and inundated much of Punjab and Sindh provinces. Oxfam warned that the two most important areas for disease prevention and treatment are the worst funded.  Just 30 percent of the money needed for water and sanitation and 57 percent for health have been received. Neva Khan, head of Oxfam in Pakistan, said: “Just in the past week, the estimated number of people affected has increased by three million.  But funding levels have stayed the same. More people have got sick and more people have fled from the floodwaters.  If we are to avert the spread of waterborne disease, then clean water, sanitation and medical supplies are vital. It is shameful that these essentials have attracted such paltry levels of donor funding.” So far only 2.5 million people have been provided with clean water, which is vital to prevent the spread of water-borne disease. Lack of funds are preventing agencies from scaling up. The World Health Organisation warns that if the affected population is not immediately provided with clean water, sanitation and hygiene materials, we may see as many as six million new cases of acute diarrhea in flood-affected areas. The current UN appeal is due to be revised in the next week and is likely to be triple the amount of the initial appeal, which stands at US$ 459.7 million. European ministers are due to discuss the crisis in Pakistan in Brussels tomorrow. Although some European donors have been generous, others are lagging behind. The UK over â?¬50m, Germany â?¬15m, and Sweden â?¬13m. No other European Country has committed more than â?¬10m. France has contributed less than two million Euros to date. Khan continued: “It’s essential that donors step up to the plate. The people of Pakistan are depending on them. Those who have been generous will need to be more generous still, and those who have not given their fair share must do so. The levels of funding are not commensurate with need and compare unfavourably with other crises. Even counting pledges outside the UN appeal, the aid money only works out at $40 per affected person. By contrast after the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 commitments in the first month amounted to $570 per affected person.” ENDS Notes to editors: 1. The initial statistics for funding and disease are from 21st August from the WASH Cluster Bulletin and OCHA’s Financial Tracking System respectively. This release compares the initial figures with those reported by the same sources two and half weeks later. The WASH Cluster figures are from 6th September 2010. The Financial Tracking Service figures are from 9 September 2010. 2. Latest estimates indicate that 21 million people affected by the floods. 8m are in need of humanitarian aid. Over 1.8m homes damaged/destroyed. The official death toll has risen to 1,752 people.  Over 3.4m hectares of crops have been lost. 3. Oxfam and partners are mounting a response in three provinces Pakistan - Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP), Sindh and Punjab. Oxfam is providing clean water and food, sanitation kits and hygiene supplies to some 600,000 people. We plan to scale up our response to reach 1.1 million people. 4. United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos is in Pakistan. She has been visiting affected areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KPK) and Sindh 5. Figures for European donors contributions to the flood response are as follows. The source for this is the Financial Tracking Service (as of 9 September 2010). For more information please contact:In the UK, Anna Ridout on +44 (0)1865 473415 or +44 (0)7766 443 506 or aridout@oxfam.org.ukIn Pakistan, Rebecca Wynn on + 92 308 555 9694 or rwynn@oxfam.org.uk More from the Oxfam Press Office at http://www.oxfam.org.uk/news