SINDH, Pakistan, 13 December 2011 – Tens of thousands of flood-affected children in Pakistan are being kept free of disease through the emergency provision of safe water, sanitation facilities and hygiene lessons. But a lack of funding is putting in doubt future humanitarian assistance.
Wallo, 13, is among the 5.15 million people in Sindh and Balochistan provinces affected by the natural disaster, most of them children and women. Wallo now attends a hygiene class with about 30 other children, learning about improved hygiene practices such as handwashing with soap. Sessions are held twice a month for children and their families. Classes like these are run by UNICEF and partners throughout the flood-affected zones, where damaged water systems, contaminated water sources, lack of toilets and overcrowding contribute to the spread of disease.
“We have been taught to brush our teeth in the morning, to take baths regularly and keep our nails clean,” said Wallo.
UNICEF provides supplies
In addition to hygiene education, Wallo and her family received a hygiene kit that provides enough essential supplies to last them three months. The kit includes basics like mugs, soap, toothpaste, cleaning materials and towels.
Since the floods hit in August and September of this year, UNICEF and partner agencies have reached more than 1.5 million people with family hygiene kits. A similar number have benefited from hygiene messages.
“In the beginning children ran around with bare feet, and sanitation was a big problem,” explained Khair Mohammad of the National Rural Support Programme, one of UNICEF’s implementing partners. “The people, especially the women, of these communities previously did not even bathe – today there is much improvement.”
UNICEF and its humanitarian partners have ensured that more than 1 million people have access to safe drinking water. In an effort to purify water and prevent water borne disease, UNICEF has distributed 4.6 million water-purification tablets and 2 million water-treatment sachets. Communities receiving these supplies are also given practical demonstrations on their use and are informed of their benefits, including reduced diarrhoeal disease. Water is currently being provided daily to nearly 800,000 people, including 407,825 children, through water trucking, household water treatment and the installation of handpumps.
UNICEF has also set up over 14,300 temporary latrines in eight hard-hit areas of Sindh Province, benefitting 416,460 people, including 189,800 children. Apart from improving sanitation, the toilets also provide girls and women with privacy, and help to restore a level of dignity.
More help is needed
To date, $18.4 million has been received to support water, sanitation and hygiene activities, leaving a funding gap of 63 per cent in this essential area of humanitarian assistance. Without further funding, activities will need to be scaled back, including the rehabilitation of water and sanitation systems in damaged and destroyed communities.