Multan, Pakistan, Oct 21 (EFE).- The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), on Friday warned that at least one in every nine children below the age of five recently affected by the massive floods in Pakistan are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, while seeking help from the international community to save their lives.
“We are facing a nutrition emergency that is threatening the lives of millions of children. Without urgent action, we are heading towards a catastrophic outcome that is threatening children’s very development and survival,” Abdullah Fadil, the UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, said in a statement.
Massive floods affected large parts of Pakistan between mid-June and September, killing at least 1,696 people including 630 children, and wounded over 12,800 persons.
Moreover, around 1.3 million houses were damaged, including over 70,000 that were completely destroyed, as per official data.
UNICEF said that out of the over 22,000 children younger than five who were screened in the flood affected areas since September, at least 2,630 were diagnosed with potentially life-threatening severe acute malnutrition.
However, the body warned that the real numbers are much higher, as the latest National Nutrition Survey indicates that nearly 1.6 million children could be suffering from the condition in the southern provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, the worst affected by the floods.
The statement said that malnutrition was already a serious problem in these districts before the inundations, with more than half the children already suffering from stunted growth and around 40 percent of the pregnant woman being anemic, raising the risk of them giving birth to low birthweight babies
“We are grateful for the global community’s support so far, but much more is needed to save children’s lives,” Fadil said, as over seven million children and women in the region require immediate access to essential nutrition services.
Moreover, at least five million people remain without access to safe drinking water, while more than six million “no longer have home sanitation facilities.”
This has raised the number of affected people forced to defecate in the open to one-third of the population, raising the risk of water-borne diseases.
So far, UNICEF has managed to raise only 13 percent of its aid target of $175.3 million to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan, the statement said. EFE