UN aid agencies have said hundreds of thousands of people affected by the floods in Pakistan have yet to receive aid, adding that the relief operation remains underfunded. Officials say the humanitarian situation there remains one of the most serious they have ever experienced. Extra emergency aid funds have been pledged to help more than 20 million people affected by the disaster. Katy Clark gets the latest from Oxfam operations manager Arif Jabbar in Islamabad. Download MP3
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KATY CLARK: I’m Katy Clark and this is The World. The United Nations is calling it the biggest emergency on the planet. Flood waters in Pakistan have left an estimated 6 million people in need of immediate assistance. And most are still waiting. Bridges have been washed away, roads blocked and villages marooned. That’s all creating immense challenges for aid groups. Alex Wynter is a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. He says damage in the north of the country is now evident.
ALEX WYNTER: What you will see on the ground now that the waters have receded actually more closely resembles an earthquake than certainly any flood I’ve ever seen. In the south, for example, in Sindh province what you see is an enormous, a truly immense expanse of standing water. The actual level of damage and destruction in the country’s incalculable because that water is still there.
CLARK: Some aid groups like Oxfam were already working in Pakistan to help people displaced by conflict when the flooding began. Arif Jabbar is with Oxfam in Islamabad. He says his group is especially worried about the potential for waterborne disease.
ARIF JABBAR: The risk of waterborne disease is extremely high. Waterborne diseases are the biggest killer in such situations. [SOUNDS LIKE] And that’s why you had focusing on making sure that people have got adequate quantity of good quality water available at all times. And also to have sanitation facilities and the basic items they need for keeping their hygiene. So that’s one part and then the other part we are working on is [INDISCERNIBLE] security and shelter. And we are providing people with cash or vouchers for food. Because we think people should have the choice of deciding what they want to eat. So in circulating [INDISCERNIBLE] items in the food package, we are giving them money so they can go to the local market and buy it. Alternatively, the [SOUNDS LIKE] banks are not working then we have a voucher system where people can actually exchange their voucher for food items and other items.
CLARK: How are you managing to get, say, these food coupons to people, clean water to people? It sounds as if just a lot of people are still stuck in some pretty desperate situations. Are you able to really get out there and get to the people most in need?
JABBAR: Yes, [INDISCERNIBLE] started the people most at risk are those who are in schools or [SOUNDS LIKE] camped there. So our strategy is that. But we also [INDISCERNIBLE] moving out to the community. A team has gone in to some of the remotest parts on Monday, yesterday. And they managed to reach some areas that had not been reached before. So we’re trying to do our best and we are also now looking at some other options. If there was, for example, a helicopter available, we could actually use those to transport some of that stuff to those people.
CLARK: The numbers that we’re seeing, 6 million people said to be in need of immediate assistance. Pakistan had a huge number of internally displaced people even before these floods occurred. I’m wondering how that has piled on to this disaster now. I mean if there were camps set up for these IDP’s, are now some of these camps being overrun by people who have been displaced because of the floods?
JABBAR: It’s the same people that are affected by the conflict and who have also been now affected by the flooding. And we were already working with those displaced people when the flooding hit. So that’s why we already had existing teams working on the ground with these people. And we just shifted our attention from conflict to flooding, the flood response.
CLARK: And this conflict being the Pakistani government had been waging a campaign against Islamic extremists operating in Pakistan?
CLARK: The Pakistani military along with the US military have been sort of on the forefront of the aid response here, having the equipment to get out to some of these areas. Has that been helpful or has having the military so heavily involved in an emergency response had its own problems?
JABBAR: No, the military has been involved in search and rescues initially and they have been working on the initial response [INDISCERNIBLE] as well. But the problem is that the scale of this disaster, it’s so huge that it stretches everyone’s capacity to the maximum [INDISCERNIBLE] the government [INDISCERNIBLE] everyone else including all the international community. At this point in time, it’s about saving lives; it’s about helping people to survive this first few weeks because they have lost everything. So it will be two decades before we can have full recovery from this.
CLARK: Arif Jabbar is humanitarian operations manager for Oxfam in Islamabad. He’s been coordinating the charities work in Pakistan since the start of the floods. You can see photos and a map of the areas affected by the massive flooding by going to our website TheWorld.org.
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