A year after devastating monsoon floods hit Pakistan, a new report by UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund) shows that many of the more than 18 million affected people – almost half of them children – are struggling to rebuild their shattered lives against a background of dwindling humanitarian funding and fear of new monsoon floods.
The floods – which at their worst covered up to one-fifth of the country and caused almost US$10 billion of damage – stretched communities to breaking point, with millions of people forced from their homes into camps or other temporary shelter. Almost all of these displaced people were already the poorest of the poor in Pakistan.
According to the report issued today by UNICEF, the impact of the floods will continue to be felt for years to come, especially by children who are the most vulnerable to the impacts of disaster. When displaced children and their families returned home, they found houses, livelihoods, and infrastructure, including health facilities and almost 10,000 schools, damaged or destroyed.
The floods also exposed an existing tragedy of chronic malnutrition, unhealthy sanitation
practices, low primary school enrolment (especially for girls) and child protection issues.
The report warns that new and continued assistance is required to ensure that flood-affected
children and families do not enter a downward spiral of increasing vulnerability. If children
remain untreated for malnutrition, for example, they are more susceptible to disease as well
as life-long stunting and cognitive impairment.
UNICEF Executive Director Tony Lake says in the report: “I, like others, was shocked to see
the devastation from the 2010 flooding and its impact on children in Pakistan. Over the past
year, the global community, including UNICEF, has launched a massive response, reaching
millions with clean water, critical nutrition, immunizations, education and other essential
services to protect children and their families.”
Nutrition and Hygiene Educator, Fehmida Khattak, says people faced huge losses because
of the floods. “They lost their crops, livestock and their houses. Now a year after the floods,
they still face the same problems. They are not yet able to build their houses and their land
is not available for harvesting. The floods have made people’s financial situation worse
and contributes to children becoming malnourished. They don’t have proper food and safe
UNICEF’s response was one of the largest emergency responses in its history, in terms of
the deployment of human and financial resources, and was carried out in close coordination
with the Government of Pakistan, other UN agencies and civil society partners.
Among its major accomplishments, UNICEF provided clean drinking water daily to 5.1 million
people; vaccinated 11.7 million children for polio and 10.4 million children for measles;
screened over two million children under five for malnutrition; established temporary learning
centres for almost 300,000 children; supported child-friendly spaces for close to 400,000
children; and provided 761,000 children with school supplies to allow them to continue their
UNICEF also led key emergency clusters at national and sub-national levels and continues
this leadership role in the Early Recovery Working Groups, coordinating for improved
efficiency of both humanitarian and early recovery responses.
UNICEF Pakistan Representative, Dan Rohrmann, says the aftermath of the disaster has
provided multiple entry points to improve children’s lives particularly in health, sanitation and
education, “Many children have accessed education for the first time in their life and nutrition
services now reach more children than ever. In a sense, the development clock has been
reset, and requires continued support to meet the higher expectations. As such, UNICEF will
continue to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, as part of
our ‘core commitments for children’, and continue to advocate and raise awareness of the
rights of children.”
In an emergency, UNICEF’s strategy is to ‘Build Back Better’ and the improvements UNICEF
has made for Pakistan’s children in accessing education is one example of this philosophy in
action. Mr Rohrmann says that the Transitional School Structures UNICEF is constructing to
fill the gap left by destroyed schools are a good example of the way forward, “These schools
are designed to provide a bridge between the emergency tent classrooms and permanent
schools. They are popular with children and many students are able to attend school for
the first time in their lives because of these schools. We would like to build them in large
numbers, allowing ever more boys and girls, including those who have not been to school
before, to access safe and secure education.”
“Today, there is still much more to be done to address the underlying conditions that made
these communities so vulnerable, and to help them build resilience. Together, we can turn
the tide in the lives of children and families of Pakistan who have suffered so terribly,” says
“Before the floods, this village had a one-room Masjid (mosque) school. Most of the children
sat under a tree. We now have this beautiful school and the children love it,” says Mukhtar
Ahmad, headmaster of the Mullanwala Government Primary School. “The flood water took
everything away from us but gave our children the opportunity for better education.”