While “the rains have largely ended, so has the media coverage,” Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF representative in Pakistan, told reporters in Geneva, adding that, with homes destroyed, children are facing a “bitter winter, without proper shelter”.
Deadly floods hit Pakistan last summer and have now only partially abated. 33 million people were affected in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, in what is widely believed Pakistan’s biggest climate catastrophe. Villages have reportedly turned into islands, with many children orphaned and families living under freezing bits of plastic.
In flood-affected districts, about 1.6 million children already suffered from severe acute malnutrition, while another six million children suffer from stunted growth, a condition that can cause irreversible damage to children’s brains, bodies and immune systems.
Restoration efforts underfunded
After floods, this situation is expected to worsen exponentially, Mr. Fadil.
“27,000 schools have been washed away,” he said, but “UNICEF’s current $173 million appeal has been funded for less than half.”
The total of $9 billion pledged last week by international donors to help Pakistan recover from the disaster was welcomed by Mr Fadil, who stressed that “children must be at the center of recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction”.
The UNICEF spokesperson stated that genuine economic recovery and sustainable growth can only be achieved if the necessary investments are made to meet the immediate and long-term needs of children, and called for investment in building human capital and resilience, particularly in rural areas of Sindh and Balochistan where much of the devastation took place.
“Pakistan is a well-known climate hotspot and it is only a matter of time before another large-scale climate catastrophe hits the country’s children,” he warned.
Earlier this month, UN Chief António Guterres reiterated the need to help developing countries such as Pakistan become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
The UN chief insisted that the international banking system needs radical reforms in favor of developing countries to “rectify a fundamental wrong”.
The UN development agency, UNDP, has warned that an additional nine million people are at risk of poverty, on top of the 33 million affected by last summer’s devastating floods in Pakistan.