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Floods in Pakistan: Handicap International Intensifies Its Emergency Relief Efforts
WASHINGTON - August 11 - Handicap International has been providing relief to the victims of the flooding in Pakistan for almost a week. The water distribution and clearance activities set up by the organization immediately after the start of the floods are continuing. The distribution of hygiene kits is also gradually being expanded. According to the United Nations, almost 14 million people are expected to be affected by the flooding, the worst the country has seen since 1929.
The situation in Pakistan has seriously deteriorated over the last week, with heavy rainfall worsening the flooding in the northwest and south of the country. The Pakistani government has recognized that it is facing a natural disaster on a far greater scale than the 2005 earthquake. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates the number of victims at around 14 million in the provinces of Baluchistan, Khyber Paktunkhwa, Sind and Punjab. Thus far, the disaster has claimed more than 1,500 lives and destroyed more than 290,000 homes.
"During a natural disaster like the one currently affecting Pakistan, you're faced with an ongoing emergency," explained Stéphane Lobjois, head of mission for Handicap International in Pakistan. "For the last 13 days we have experienced a highly critical situation in which the population's suffering has shown no signs of abating and the situation is not improving."
On August 2, Handicap International decided to release $131,800 in general funds to ensure a swift response to the natural disaster.
Handicap International's Emergency Response Department acted very quickly to organize the distribution of clean drinking water, a key factor in preventing the spread of disease, in particular cholera. Drinking water is still being distributed in the area. Handicap International is also helping people access water by repairing water supply systems (pumps) destroyed by the flooding. The organization has also begun distributing 7,000 kits, enabling families to purify and store water, and to wash and cook.
A clearance project has also begun in the districts of Hangu, Swat and Kohat. Handicap International is involving local people in clearing away the waste and debris swept along by the floods and removing stagnant water from towns, enabling the population to return to the area and limiting the spread of disease. This project should soon be extended to other areas.
Present in the country since the 2005 earthquake, Handicap International runs several projects in Pakistan and has launched two large-scale emergency operations in the past, most recently in 2009 when 3 million people fled fighting in the Swat Valley. Therefore, the organization was already present in the regions affected by the flooding. Handicap International currently has a team of around 150 people on the ground.