Pakistanis worried by new flood warnings

There are fears of another crisis following last year's disaster which displaced millions.

    Twelve months after devastating floods submerged one-fifth of Pakistan and left some 2,000 people
    dead, new weather warnings have been issued, with humanitarian organisations saying the country is still at risk.

    The country has failed to invest in prevention measures since last year's floods and is vulnerable to another disaster this monsoon season, according to Oxfam, the British aid agency, wich has also called for more to be spent on reconstruction, suitable housing and early-warning systems.

    "Pakistan needs to act now. Investing in measures today that reduce the impact of disasters is essential to save lives and safeguard development gains in the future," Neva Khan, head of Oxfam in Pakistan, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

    Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Thatta in Sindh province, said: "[The] United Nations is warning that this year alone [up to] six million people could possibly be affected by flooding."

    For its part, the Red Cross has warned that thousands still face a daily struggle to support their families. It said that together with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, it was continuing to work together to assist families with emergency relief and infrastructure aid.

    'Darkest hour'

    During last year's disaster, flood waters stretched from the Swat Valley in the north to Sindh in the south.

    About 20 million people were affected by the disaster, which also damaged or destroyed around 1.7 million houses.

    "The flooding was so bad that Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, described it as the worst humanitarian disaster he has ever seen," our correspondent said.

    Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Chakdara in the Swat Valley, said the 2010 flood "was called Pakistan's darkest hour. It displaced 20 million people, the cost to agriculture was $2.9bn and to infrastructure even greater.

    "The scale of the damage to infrastructure is mind boggling. The government has estimated it to be close to $15bn. Most of the roads going up to upper Swat are in bad shape; they have either been washed away or totally destroyed."

    Hundreds of thousands of people living in the affected areas are still without permanent homes, Al Jazeera's correspondents reported.

    "The governmment is seen to be almost oblivious to the problems of the people," Al Jazeera's Hyder said.

    "There are complaints that the civilian government, which should have come in, fill the void and offer some relief to the people. That has not happened and of course that is what is necessary."

    'Still underfunded'

    The UN had appealed for $2bn in aid money. However, a year later, the world body is still $600m short.

    "The world response was good, but it is still underfunded," Fadlullah Wilmot, Pakistan country director of Islamic Relief, told Al Jazeera.

    "Four million people have been helped, but 14 million more still need help."

    "This was a huge disaster. It's like the whole of England was covered by water and the whole of Holland was evacuated, so that just gives you some picture of the disaster," he said.

    Now, with communities along river banks in Pakistan once again being told to prepare for heavy monsoon rains, there are fears that the threat of another disaster will wash away whatever recoveries were made since the last time disaster stuck.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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