Pakistan floods hit 3.2 million people: UNICEF
Devastating floods caused by torrential monsoon rains in Pakistan have affected about 3.2 million people and only a fraction of them are within reach of emergency aid, UN Children's Fund said Tuesday.
Hundreds of thousands of people were at risk of disease and about a million were in need of emergency aid, United Nations aid agencies said after the "worst floods in 80 years" swept away entire villages.
Aid workers feared that more heavy rain already reported to be falling on Tuesday in the midst of the monsoon season would worsen the damage wrought by the floods, which has left some areas cut off or only accessible by boat or helicopter.
Flood waters were reportedly moving southwards towards Punjab and Sindh provinces, UNICEF spokesman Marco Jimenez told journalists. "Those provinces are at risk at the moment," he added.
"About 3.2 million people have been affected by the floods, 1.4 million of them are children," he said, citing a Pakistani government estimate.
The preliminary estimate marked a jump from the 2.5 million quoted by the International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday which included only those affected in northwest Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The figure includes those who were forced to flee from their homes, as well as people who were cut off from food, clean water or medical care, Jimenez explained.
The UN's World Food Programme said it had provided food for about 42,000 people by Monday, with a total of some 250,000 expected to receive emergency food supplies by the end of the week.
Yet, first estimates of needs were far higher, spokeswoman Emilia Casella indicated.
"Access is remaining a major challenge. What we're finding from our assessment teams is that 700,000 people are the worst affected that need food in the immediate one month ration," Casella told journalists.
The UN estimated that more than one million people are in need of emergency aid.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent were planning to distribute supplies to 250,000 people, ICRC spokesman Christian Cardon.
UNICEF spokesman Jimenez acknowledged that only a fraction of flood victims were within reach of aid for now.
"Absolutely, and that's because access is limited in many areas. Many areas remain isolated," he told AFP.
"The real needs are uncertain because of the magnitude of the floods," he added.
© 2010 AFP