UNICEF: Pakistan floods uncover dire nutrition situation
ISLAMABAD/GENEVA/NEW YORK, 28 January 2011 – Six 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 critical levels of malnutrition among flood-affected children.
Data released today by the Sindh Department of Health indicates a nutrition crisis, recording a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of 23.1 per cent in children aged between 6-59 months in flood-affected areas of Northern Sindh and 21.2 per cent in Southern Sindh. This rate is well above the World Health Organization's (WHO) 15 per cent emergency threshold level which triggers a humanitarian response. Furthermore, records from Northern Sindh reveal a Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) rate of 6.1. The Sindh government estimates about 90,000 children aged 6-59 months are malnourished.
Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) reveals how many children in a given population are moderately and severely malnourished, and have not gained the required weight for their height. Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is an advanced state of acute malnutrition. Children with SAM need immediate treatment and are ten times more likely to die before they reach their fifth birthday than healthy children. If they do survive, their development and learning is poor and their income earning potential as adults is reduced.
"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. UNICEF is committed to working with its partners to ensure that their needs are met," said Pascal Villeneuve, UNICEF Pakistan Acting Representative.
The Flood Affected Nutrition Survey (FANS) was conducted in flood-affected areas in all four 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. Results are expected from the Punjab Government shortly.
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. It also supports nutrition programmes to nurse malnourished children and women back to health.
Six months after the devastating 2010 monsoon floods struck, UNICEF continues to act on the urgent needs of flood affected people, most of whom have gone back to find their houses and communities in total devastation. 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.
In the past six months since the onset of the floods, UNICEF has been providing clean water to an unprecedented 3.5 million people daily, and sanitation facilities to more than 1.9 million people. UNICEF has worked with partners to immunize more than 9 million children against measles and polio and provide about 8.5 million children with Vitamin A supplementation. A total of around 120,000 malnourished women and children have also been enrolled in various feeding programmes. Temporary Learning Centres are benefiting around 180,000 children. UNICEF established 700 Child Friendly Spaces benefiting 200,000 children and protecting them from risks of abuse, neglect and exploitation. UNICEF also leads the nutrition, water, education and child protection clusters to ensure life-saving and life-sustaining interventions are well-coordinated, gaps are addressed, resources are maximized, and strategic information shared.
"As the Pakistan flood crisis continues to evolve and attention for the emergency fades, there is a danger that people of the world will forget that Pakistani children still need a great deal of help. Children now face the task of rebuilding their lives and homes with their families, which means that many of them will work instead of going to school. The long months with little food have compromised their ability to stay healthy and fight off diseases," Villeneuve said.
To date, UNICEF has received US$198 million in donations and pledges out of the US$251 million required. As UNICEF continues relief, return and early recovery activities, a funding gap of 21 per cent or US$52 million is still required to ensure UNICEF can respond to ongoing needs.
UNICEF is the world's leading child-focused humanitarian and development agency. Through innovative programs and advocacy work, we save children's lives and secure their rights in virtually every country. Our global reach, unparalleled influence on policymakers, and diverse partnerships make us an instrumental force in shaping a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause. UNICEF is entirely supported by voluntary donations and helps all children, regardless of race, religion or politics. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.