Catastrophic flooding in Pakistan has affected more than 33 million people, and the international aid organisation CARE is warning that women and girls will be most at risk in the weeks and months to come.
The floods have created a humanitarian crisis, with more than 1,000 people killed and widespread destruction of homes, roads, schools and health facilities.
CARE Pakistan Country Director, Adil Sheraz, said “when disasters like this hit, we know from experience that it’s women, girls and other marginalised groups who face the biggest challenges.
“For example, pregnant women have nowhere to give birth safely because the floods have washed away homes and health facilities. Their lives and the lives of their babies will be at risk if they can’t access proper maternal health care.”
The UN’s reproductive health agency estimates there are almost 650,000 pregnant women in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas, with up to 73,000 expected to give birth in the next month.
Mr Sheraz said “we also know from experience that violence against women increases in the aftermath of a disaster. With entire villages washed away, families broken up and many people sleeping under the sky, the usual social structures that keep people safe have fallen away, and this can be very dangerous for women and girls.”
Mahzeb*, a woman from one of the hardest hit areas in Balochistan province, told aid workers “the flood took away our homes. Two women and children in my family were lost in front of us. We are in mourning.”
CARE, which started work in Pakistan in 1949 and has worked there continually since 2005, is providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance in Balochistan province.
CARE and its local partners are distributing tents, tarpaulins, emergency latrine kits, and everyday essentials including cooking pots, mosquito nets and menstrual hygiene products.
CARE is also planning to set up safe spaces for women and children in the camps for displaced people.
Mr Sheraz said “CARE is seeking to raise up to US$50 million [AU$73 million] so we can provide both immediate assistance, and longer-term recovery support over the next three years.
“Right now, we are particularly concerned about people being exposed to the elements and outbreaks of waterborne diseases, so we are focusing on getting shelter, hygiene kits and other essential items to affected communities.”
With a donation of US$500 (AU$730), CARE can provide a family tent that is reinforced against the elements for the coming winter. With US$200 (AU$293), affected communities can build a block of toilets.
On Tuesday, the peak body for international aid organisations in Australia called on the Australian Government to increase aid to Pakistan flood victims to AU$5 million.
Mr Sheraz said “this is a full-blown humanitarian crisis and it’s not going to go away overnight. Many have lost everything they have — their loved ones, their homes, their livestock, their crops and their source of income.
“These floods are some of the worst Pakistan has ever seen — this is what climate change looks like.
“We appeal to the international community for urgently-need funds so we can scale-up our efforts to provide immediate emergency relief and longer-term recovery assistance.
“The people of Pakistan have a long and difficult road ahead and need our collective support now.”
For media enquiries contact Iona Salter on 0413 185 634.
Donate to CARE Australia’s Pakistan Floods Emergency Appeal.