PAkistan has been hit by one of the deadliest floods in recent history. Over the past two months, the 600% above average rains and resulting floods have devastated the lives of millions of people, destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, killed livestock and claimed more than 1,000 lives. dead.
Sindh, South Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, especially areas surrounding Koh-i-Suleman, have been worst affected.
Koh-i-Suleman is found in southern parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and northern parts of Balochistan. In KP, these mountains border Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts, extending into Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts of southern Punjab. The plateaus surrounding these ranges are generally sheltered from the moist Arabian Sea winds, resulting in arid conditions. In the normal course of things, the downpour goes down to the Indus river. This was not the case this year.
Along with heavy rains, this monsoon has brought misery, disaster and destruction. The monsoon systems ravaging Pakistan have caused damage in two phases. The first began with the onset of torrential rains and flash floods; heavy downpours causing damage to food and water sources while weakening the foundations of mud houses and hybrid dwelling structures in the affected districts.
In the second stage, the floods destroyed 2,887 kilometers of road. 129 bridges were destroyed.
Taunsa in Dera Ghazi Khan and Paroha in Dera Ismail Khan were the hardest hit. These areas are located even lower than the surrounding road network. The Indus Highway, which crosses these areas, obstructs drainage in some areas. Thousands of people in the region were stranded without food or drinking water. In some areas, people have had nothing to eat for 72 hours.
The hygiene situation is deteriorating with little or no access to potable water, as traditional water sources have been contaminated. WASH awareness levels and vaccination rates are low.
Residents around Koh-i-Suleman are also among the least prepared for natural disasters. The literacy rate is 26% in Tank, 32% in Dera Ismail Khan, 33% in Rajanpur and 48% in Dera Ghazi Khan. Women’s literacy is even worse.
This has led to low levels of awareness on issues such as vaccination, hygiene and nutrition. A significant number of children in these areas are already stunted. The risk of waste is great.
The hygiene situation is deteriorating with little or no access to potable water, as traditional water sources including hand pumps and wells have been contaminated. WASH awareness levels in these areas, as well as vaccination rates, are low. There is a serious risk of epidemic diarrhea due to open defecation and malaria. Low vaccination rates make the situation worse.
Rescue 1122 did a commendable job in Dera Ismail Khan. The same goes for the Punjab Disaster Management Authority and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). However, much more is urgently needed.
The time calls for joint efforts by governments at all levels, as well as international organizations experienced in disaster management, to contain the damage caused by the monsoon floods.
The author is a specialist in disaster risk management. He can be contacted at [email protected]