South Asia

Pakistan still not prepared for new floods, says Oxfam

Flooded field in Pakistani district of Layyah, 2011
Image caption Fresh flooding in Punjab - Oxfam says the crisis is far from over

Pakistan is still not sufficiently prepared to cope with flooding and other natural disasters, a year after the worst floods in its history, aid agency Oxfam has said.

More than 1,750 people are thought to have been killed and 20 million people affected by last year's floods.

An Oxfam report expresses concern about the pace of reconstruction.

It says more than 800,000 families are still without permanent shelter as another monsoon season approaches.

The aid agency also says many people who missed the chance to plant or harvest crops are struggling to sustain themselves, with little work available and rising food prices.

"Villagers in areas that we work fear new flooding. Many are planting fewer crops than usual as they are worried that their harvests will be destroyed in fresh floods," Neva Khan, head of Oxfam in Pakistan, said.

"In some areas, where fresh flooding has already begun, families have started to dismantle their houses and move to higher ground as they are scared of losing everything again."

The Oxfam report says there is a widespread lack of adequate shelter, malnutrition rates are high and many who are still displaced do not have the means to return home, or anywhere to return to.

"Pakistan is a disaster prone country and has been flooded 67 times since 1947. Climate change will only increase the threat of floods," Ms Khan said.

"But while floods and earthquakes are inevitable, widespread devastation is not. For years, not enough has been done to protect ordinary Pakistani men, women and children from disasters before they strike."

Disaster

Oxfam acknowledges that the floods would have challenged any government and that as a result of the aid operations thousands of lives were saved.

Image caption Some of the floodwater has still not receded, a year on from the disaster

But the aid agency says that there are still huge humanitarian needs on the ground and serious lessons to be learnt from how the response was dealt with.

Oxfam says that much of the country is still not covered by early warning systems and many flood defences that were destroyed in last year's disaster not yet properly repaired.

It says that more flood resistant housing, and effective early warning systems - especially at the village level - are urgently needed.

The agency also called for more funding for local authorities and organisations that play a frontline role in preparing for and responding to emergencies.

"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," Ms Khan said.

"It will ensure schools built with aid funds are not washed away and that farmers can keep the crops they have toiled over."

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