After Flood, Pakistani Children Face Winter Peril

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Agence France-Presse

After Flood, Pakistani Children Face Winter Peril

Hasan Mansoor

As winter approaches in Pakistan thousands of malnourished children are living in dirty, spartan tents. (AFP)

HYDERABAD, Pakistan — As winter approaches on Pakistan's flooded
southern plains, thousands of malnourished children are living in dirty,
spartan tents without prospect of a home, officials and UN workers say.

treating thin and bedraggled youngsters say a lack of nutritious food
and clean water are threatening lives among the 250,000 children still
in relief camps nearly three months after the catastrophic floods began.

much of southern Sindh province still under water and many temporary
camps in schools closing to allow classes to resume, the future for
children of the flood is worrying, they say.

"These children are
facing serious threats to their lives. Malnutrition is posing a huge
threat and could cause a greater disaster," said Mohammad Ashraf, a
nutritionist from Hyderabad volunteering in the relief camps.

UN children's agency, UNICEF, said aid agencies and state authorities
have been targeting more than 75,500 severely malnourished children who
are 10 times more likely to die because of lack of decent food.

180,000 moderately malnourished children are in need, they said,
aggravating an already dire situation for Pakistan's impoverished

"The floods have aggravated malnutrition among children
who were already suffering and have spectacularly exposed the situation
before the world," said Kaleem Shaikh, head of charity, the Peoples
Development Foundation.

In the last mass nutrition survey
conducted in 2002, Pakistan health authorities said that about 40
percent of children under the age of five were underweight and stunted.

twins Bilawal and Bakhtawar -- named after the children of assassinated
former prime minister Benazir Bhutto -- looked pale and gaunt as their
mother sat in a tent to nurse them in Karachi's western suburbs.

"They are ill. Their bodies are shrinking but nobody is here to take care of us," said their mother Nazeeran Bibi, 38.

depend on my breastfeeding but how can I feed them? I don't have any
proper food to eat," she said, holding them wrapped tightly in cloth to
keep them away from the sun's scorching rays.

UN figures show that
nearly three million children under the age of five were affected by
the floods, which began at the end of July, and a rough UNICEF estimate
shows 250,000 are still critically affected by a lack of food.

the season cools and winter rains arrive, UN officials at the World Food
Programme said that stockpiling food is an urgent issue.

assessments of nutritional status and clinical observations strongly
suggest that rates of acute malnutrition are rising," said WFP
spokeswoman Jackie Dent.

But she said donations to UN funding appeals had been desperately slow and threatened the emergency operations.

we are getting low on funds and by November we have a pipeline break
for several commodities," said Dent, adding that more than 80 million
dollars were needed for provisions in November and December alone.

Khoso, 28, fled her home with her peasant husband and four children a
month ago when their house in the town of Garhi Khero in northern Sindh
was completely submerged by torrential waters.

She said all her
children have fallen ill after the family were forced to move between
relief camps to find shelter, with food still scarce at the field camp
in Hyderabad where the family now resides.

Her youngest daughter,
15-month-old Samina, has been staying in the hospital for a month but
shows no sign of improvement, Khoso said.

"We often get food just
once a day, sometimes twice. My children eat rice whenever it is
distributed but they don't get any milk," she said.

Doctors say a
combination of malnutrition and dirty drinking water have caused skin
problems, diarrhoea, malaria and respiratory problems for children,
particularly those under the age of five.

UNICEF's Sindh head
Andro Shilakadze said the agency is busy planning for winter with the
arrival of blankets and the building of new temporary camps to house
those being evicted from camps based in schools.

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