'Serious Challenges' Remain in Flood-Hit Pakistan, warns UN

The UN's refugee agency has warned that "serious challenges" remain in Pakistan following devastating floods in June.

Although some improvements in conditions have been reported, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that it was stepping up relief efforts to help the more than two million people affected by the floods.

"As the water subsides, life is slowly returning to normal in the camps and families are starting to rebuild their mud houses," UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva. "But access to these areas is still difficult as the roads have been washed away," she added.

More than 6,000 villages in Balochistan and Sindh provinces have suffered devastation from flooding and Cyclone Yemyin, and around 250 people have died while 186 are still missing.

UNHCR and its partners said they would increase relief for those areas hosting Afghan refugees in particular. Around 250 tonnes of emergency supplies have been earmarked for Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.

World Vision said earlier in the month that it was working out a relief intervention to those hit by cyclone Yemyin in collaboration with other NGOs already present in the affected area prior to the disaster.

Caritas Internationalis member Catholic Relief Services said, meanwhile, that clean water and hygiene were of "critical concern".

"Livestock is buried under the mud; water infrastructure is fully damaged, forcing people to get water from local rivers and streams that are polluted; and people are reporting incidences of scabies, diarrhea, gastro-intestinal illness," said Gul Wali Khan, emergency director with CRS Pakistan who has just returned from Kech.

Children are also suffering without access to their schools.

"Most of the school buildings have collapsed or are severely damaged and many children have lost their school bags, books, materials, and uniforms" said Khan. "It is important to resume a routine of normalcy as quickly as possible, in a safe environment and with support that allows children to continue their education despite the conditions."

UNHCR has requested more than $622,000 through the UN Central Emergency Response Fund to provide shelter items including plastic sheets, sleeping mats and blankets for 150,000 flood victims.