Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pakistan: EU response to the monsoon flooding


After the worst monsoon floods in living memory, Pakistan is facing a humanitarian disaster on a massive and unimaginable scale. Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, left for Islamabad to meet with the authorities and to visit some of the stricken areas.

As the full scope and scale of the disaster continues to evolve, there has been fresh flooding resulting in further additional population movements and growing needs. Furthermore, this monsoon disaster comes on the heels of the emergency humanitarian response to the ongoing conflict in Pakistan as military operations continue to displace people. Many people have been impacted twice, first by the conflict and then by the floods, thereby drastically increasing their vulnerability.

The EU Humanitarian Response – worth more than €200 million to date

The European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) acted extremely quickly and to date has committed to funding €70 million to assist the victims of the floods. The most recent funding announcement for €30 million on 18 August (see IP/10/1056) added to the €30 million announced on 31 July (see IP/10/1018) and the €10 million on 11 August (IP/10/1048).

In addition to the €70 million the European Commission is providing, EU Member States have also acted quickly with humanitarian funding worth more than €130 million so far (see table below).

EU-funded humanitarian projects are implemented by non-governmental organisations, specialised UN agencies and the Red Cross / Red Crescent movement. The Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, ECHO, already had a support office in Islamabad, providing humanitarian assistance for conflict-affected people in the northern areas of Pakistan through partner organisations, so experts were quickly deployed to the flood-affected areas.

EU funding is already being used on the ground to provide emergency shelter to millions of people who have been displaced and whose homes have been damaged or destroyed. Flood waters are also posing a severe health threat for an already vulnerable population due to water-borne diseases, so the provision of clean drinking water and sanitation facilities is crucial. Food assistance is also vital as all crops and food stocks have been lost in certain areas.

Priority Needs:
Shelter: The overall need for emergency shelter has intensified rapidly, compounded by the evacuation and migration of the flood-affected populations. Large volumes of plastic sheeting are necessary as stocks of locally available tents will not meet the need. Assessments are ongoing to establish how much will be required.

Food assistance: The UN and relief agencies estimate that around six million people will need food assistance over the next three months as crops and food stocks have been destroyed by the floods. This number will probably rise. There are urgent needs for fodder for livestock and the winter crop “rabi” needs to be planted by late September.

Access to health services: In some locations, health facilities and medicines stocks have been damaged or destroyed by the floods. Flood-related health problems are on the rise; with reports of increased incidence of watery diarrhoea, scabies (skin diseases), acute respiratory tract infections, malaria, dengue fever, and cholera. It is essential that health services are extended to all flood-affected areas. Cholera and diarrhoea centres are being established.

Water and sanitation facilities: Floods have contaminated and damaged water sources (springs and tube wells), depriving the population of clean drinking water. The affected population is in need of hygiene kits. Needs are particularly acute in Punjab and Sindh. There is still an urgent need to provide clean drinking water to the affected population and repair water sources as well as the provision of sanitation facilities.

The funding provided by the EU will cover all these needs, as well as providing non-food items (blankets, hygiene sets, etc), psychological support, emergency communication, livelihood support and protection.

The EU Civil Protection Response

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was also activated responding to Pakistan's request for assistance from the international community. The Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) within ECHO is in contact with the 31 countries participating in the European Civil Protection Mechanism.

Many participating states have offered in-kind assistance supported through the Mechanism. Items such as water purification tablets, emergency health kits, hygiene kits, tents, mats, water tanks, water cans, generators and other relief items have been provided (see table below) and more is arriving.

In addition, a number of EU civil protection experts and a MIC liaison officer have been deployed to the area to facilitate the coordination of further civil protection assistance and to liaise with the UN agencies.


The monsoon rains are continuing, and are hampering efforts to restore roads, bridges and infrastructure, thereby further impeding access to the flood-affected communities. The affected populations are scattered over a huge area and very often in small pockets. Massive tracts of agricultural land are submerged and the loss of food security and livelihoods will be a major challenge in the coming months. Unfortunately, in many areas, security is also becoming a problem. The scale of the crisis is huge and the number of people affected is rising daily.

It will be crucial in the coming weeks to design humanitarian assistance in a way that both includes the vulnerable groups, (women, children, elderly and disabled) whilst ensuring that every support is given to their physical, economic and psychological recovery.

The European Union is committed to providing aid to as many people as possible, as speedily and efficiently as possible, thereby helping to save lives and reduce the suffering of the people affected by this massive disaster.