27 September 2022 - Pakistan

PAKISTAN: Children at risk of snake bites and disease as 70% of flood-hit families live in squalid conditions without proper shelter

  • Children sleeping outside are at serious risk of illness or death – thousands don’t even have a plastic sheet to protect them from monsoon rains.
  • More than half of people are defecating outside in the open in stagnant water, putting them at risk of venomous spider and snake bites.
  • More than 80% of families do not have access to enough clean water, with one in five drinking from canals or rivers

Islamabad, 27 September 2022 – More than half (54%) of flood-hit families in Pakistan are sleeping outside in tents or makeshift shelters – often no more than flimsy plastic sheets – while approximately one in six (16%) have no shelter at all, according to new research by Save the Children.

The aid agency surveyed 1,200 households in four provinces worst hit by Pakistan’s devastating floods. Most of the families surveyed have lost their homes and are living in squalid conditions near roadsides, using pieces of cloth or tarpaulin for shelter from the monsoon rain. More than half of those surveyed do not have access to toilets and are defecating outside in stagnant water, which carries a high risk of spreading serious diseases like cholera and dysentery.

The floods have decimated water supplies – 80% of families reported not having enough clean water - and many people have no choice but to drink from unsafe or contaminated water sources. Around one in five households said they were getting water for drinking and cooking from canals, springs, or rivers, most of which have been contaminated by the floods.

Children sleeping outside without shelter or clean drinking water are at serious risk of life-threatening diseases like malaria, dysentery and diarrhea, as well as insect and snake bites, Save the Children warned. Defecating in flooded fields puts them at even greater risk, as stagnant water draws venomous snakes and spiders.

Guddi, 20, and her family, including her six-month-old son, were left homeless after their home was destroyed by devastating floods in Sindh Province - one of the worst affected areas. Guddi said:

“I was living with my parents but now the floods have destroyed their house, leaving me and my son with nowhere to live. Now my parents, siblings and my son are all living together in this tent [provided by Save the Children].”

More than two million homes have been destroyed since the floods first hit in June, displacing 7.6 million people. Hunger and disease are rife, and the country is now facing a major public health emergency.

As well as illness and disease, children from flood-hit families often face other threats.  With millions of families losing their only source of income in the floods, a quarter of parents surveyed said they had been forced to send their children out to work to earn an income. Incidents of child marriage were also reported – 4.6% of families said they had married off one of their children since the flood crisis began.

Save the Children’s Country Director in Pakistan, Khuram Gondal, said:

“Pakistan is now in the grips of a major health emergency.  In Sindh province, I saw hundreds of thousands of people living in filthy conditions in makeshift camps – some with only a plastic sheet to protect themselves from the heavy monsoon rains. We’re seeing children dying from water-borne diseases every day, and things will only get worse the longer they go on sleeping outside without shelter, food or water.

“Our teams on the ground are doing everything they can to ensure people have food, shelter and clean drinking water. But the reality is, there aren’t nearly enough funds to meet the desperate level of need.

“Over a month since the Pakistan government called for international assistance only 37 percent of the US$160 million target set by the UN for the flood response has been met  - and even that target was a woeful underestimate of the real scale of the need. Donor governments must do better. Without urgent action this public health emergency will spiral out of control.”

Save the Children is providing emergency relief to families that have lost everything, including food, emergency shelter and medical assistance.  The agency is running two medical camps in SWAT and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa where it is providing life-saving medical care to children suffering from flood-related illnesses. As of 20 September we had reached over 28,000 people, including more than 14,000 children, through our life-saving activities.

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

Save the Children surveyed 1,200 households from the four most flood-affected provinces in Pakistan: Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, Punjab, and Sindh. The survey was conducted from 9-16 September, 2022.

 

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