Dire nutrition situation uncovered 6 months after the flood

Dire nutrition situation uncovered 6 months after the flood

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28 January 2011

6 months after the 2010 Pakistan monsoon floods hit, UNICEF and its partners face another huge challenge following new survey results from Sindh province that reveal about 90,000 flood-affected children aged 6-59 months are malnourished. Northern Sindh reveal a Severe Acute Malnutrition rate of 6.1%, children with SAM are 10 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than healthy children.

The Flood Affected Nutrition Survey (FANS) was conducted in flood-affected areas in all 4 provinces of Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. It aims to provide updated information on the nutritional status of children aged between 6-59 months in flood-affected communities.

Data released today by the Sindh Department of Health indicates a nutrition crisis – 90,000 children aged 6-59 months are malnourished. The Department also reported a Global Acute Malnutrition rate of 23.1% in flood-affected areas of Northern Sindh and 21.2% in Southern Sindh, revealing the percentage of children moderately and severely malnourished and have not gained the required weight. This rate is well above the World Health Organization’s 15% emergency threshold level.

Furthermore, records from Northern Sindh reveal a Severe Acute Malnutrition rate of 6.1. These children are in an advanced state of acute malnutrition. They need immediate treatment and are 10 times more likely to die before they reach their fifth birthday than healthy children. If they do survive, their development, learning and even income earning potential as adults are impaired.

“UNICEF is extremely concerned about this finding and is working with the federal and provincial government authorities concerned to reach and treat these children. The floods may have uncovered the hidden face of child malnutrition in Pakistan, but we see this as an opportunity to scale up a sustained response that will benefit children in the short and long term,” said Pascal Villeneuve, UNICEF Pakistan Acting Representative.

To respond to the findings, UNICEF and other nutrition partners are working with the government of Sindh to carry out a robust response plan. It will focus on acute malnutrition management and prevention over a period of 18 months. UNICEF leads the Nutrition Cluster and provides nutrition supplies, technical guidance and training. A total of 120,000 malnourished women and children have been enrolled in various feeding programmes.

The Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF (HKCU) has launched an appeal to fund the urgent operations in Pakistan since last August. “The Pakistan flood crisis continues to evolve and we must not forget that Pakistani children still need a great deal of help. Children now face the task of rebuilding their lives and homes. However, the long months with little food have compromised their ability to stay healthy and fight off diseases,” said Ms Irene Chan, Chief Executive of HKCU.

Since the onset of the floods, UNICEF has been providing clean water to an unprecedented 3.5 million people daily, and sanitation facilities to over 1.9 million people. UNICEF has worked with partners to immunise over 9 million children against measles and polio and provide 8.5 million children with Vitamin A supplementation. Temporary Learning Centres are benefiting 180,000 children. UNICEF established 700 Child Friendly Spaces benefiting and protecting 200,000 children from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

To date, HKCU has raised HKD2.7million for the Pakistan floods emergency relief work, while HK$1.94 billion (US$198 million) in donations and pledges out of the HK$1.95 billion (US$251 million) have been received worldwide. As UNICEF continues its relief, return and early recovery operations, a funding gap of 21% or HK$405 million (US$52 million) is still required to ensure UNICEF can respond to ongoing needs.

Following the devastating floods stuck Pakistan, falling temperatures during winter has made life in the camps and in damaged houses more difficult for families, and has hindered returns in the northern areas. UNICEF’s response continues to adapt to the changing needs of those affected by the flood. We are appealing for additional donations for the continuous emergency relief in Pakistan from new donors and the general public in Hong Kong.