ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a sexual and reproductive health agency, has painted a bleak picture of women affected by the unprecedented floods as it said that at least 650,000 pregnant women, of whom 73,000 are expected to deliver next month, in the flood-affected areas are in dire need of maternal health service.

The UN agency also warned that many women and girls were at an incre­a­­sed risk of gender-based violence (GBV) as almost one million hou­ses were dama­g­­ed in the floods that spelled suff­ering for millions across Pakistan.

“Up to 73,000 women expected to deliver next month will need skilled birth attendants, newborn care, and support,” the agency said, adding that pregnancies and childbirth cannot wait for emergencies or natural disasters to be over as this is when a woman and baby are vulnerable and need the most care.

“UNFPA is on the ground, working with partners, to ensure that pregnant women and new mothers continue re­­ceiving life-saving services even under the most challenging conditions,” ac­­ting UNFPA Pakistan Repre­sen­tative Dr Bakhtior Kadirov said.

UNHCR asks world to step up support for flood victims

According to the UN agency, over 1,000 health facilities were either partially or fully damaged in Sindh, whereas 198 health facilities were damaged in the affected districts in Balochistan. The damage to roads and bridges also compromised girls’ and women’s access to health facilities, it added.

“We will continue supporting health facilities with the equipment and human resources to be fully operational despite the challenging humanitarian conditions,” said Dr Kadirov.

In a bid to ramp up its emerge­n­­cy response, the UNFPA Pakis­tan procured 8,311 dignity kits, 7,411 newborn baby kits, and 6,412 clean delivery kits for immediate delivery to Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtun­khwa, and Punjab.

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The UN agency said it was also prioritising gender-based violen­­ce prevention and response serv­i­­­ces, including medical and psychosocial support to the survivors of GBV.

UNHCR appeals for more help

As the UNHCR has delivered relief items in the worst-hit areas of Balo­ch­is­tan and Khyber Pakhtun­kh­­wa, UN High Com­mis­sio­ner for Refugees Filippo Grandi asked the international community to step up its support and help Pakistan’s response to the catastrophe.

“Rain and floods have been catastrophic for millions of people. We urgently need global support and solidarity for Pakistan in these dire times,’’ said Filippo Grandi.

Over 30 million people in Pak­istan have been affected by torr­ential rains and flash floods ac­­ross the country, leaving 6.4 million people in need of immediate support. Since June, hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the floods, and are now living in camps, or with host families.

So far, UNHCR has provided refugee villages, as well as host communities, with more than 71,000 eme­rgency relief items, including tents, plastic tarpauli­­ns, sanitary products, cooking sto­­ves, blankets, solar lamps, and sleeping mats.

In addition, UNHCR delivered 10,000 sacks to help households build up defences around their homes. “This assistance to date amounts to over $1.5 million, but much more aid is needed,” its press release said.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2022

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