The Pakistan flood crisis is now thought to have affected in excess of 17 million people, resulting in more than 1,500 deaths since the flooding began last month. Local charities, the Pakistani Army and international agencies are providing food, water, medicine and shelter to the displaced, but millions have received little or no help.

Pakistan’s railways have been severely affected, and the floods threaten to exacerbate a severe financial crisis through millions in lost revenue resulting from suspended passenger trains in flood-affected areas.

Particularly worrying for the railways is the knock on effect on a number of development programmes put in place to overhaul and improve railways in Pakistan. The finance in place for these schemes may now be withdrawn in order to help subsidise repair costs.

As yet, the overall cost of the floods to Pakistan’s railways is not known, and won’t be until the flood waters disperse.

Transport chaos

Transport links with the country have, as expected, been ravaged by the flood waters with bridges, railways and roads destroyed, submerged or rendered unusable. Complete areas have been cut off, leaving more than 800,000 stranded and towns, such as Jacobabad, requiring aid by helicopter. The UN has since appealed for 40 extra helicopters, required to deliver the levels of aid required at different areas.

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The countries road network has been hard hit. Areas such as Nowshera and Charsadda are completely cut off forcing officials from the UN including Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Magwanja to fly in through helicopter.

“Millions will be lost in revenue resulting from suspended passenger trains in flood-affected areas of Pakistan.”

The famous Silk Road, an extensive interconnected network of trade routes connecting east, south and western Asia with the Mediterranean, north Africa and Europe has been all but destroyed.

According to provincial relief commissioner Shakil Qadir, the worst-hit area is the Malakand region along the river Khyber, where 102 people died and 16,000 were stranded following the collapse of bridges and road links wiped out as a result of rising flood waters.

Medical disaster

The situation has not been helped by the damage or destruction of more than 200 hospitals and clinics through flood waters, however, medicines for over two million people have now been delivered to the region. Leading organisations such as the World Health Organisation are now establishing temporary response centres to treat the predominant illnesses caused by flood waters.

It is estimated that out of 17 million people affected by the flood crisis in Pakistan, at least six million are in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance and health care.

Acute diarrhoea, acute respiratory conditions and skin infections, such as scabies, have achieved the highest affliction rates, with over 650,000 cases reported between July 29 and August 18 based on patient visits to health facilities in worst-hit areas.

Aid is needed; specifically items including water purification tablets in order to treat the growing cases of dehydration and provide potable water to the people that have been affected by the worst ever floods to affect Pakistan. Potable water and sanitation interventions are needed to significantly decrease complications and prevent the outbreak of serious waterborne diseases, such as cholera, in communities.

The US has deployed 18 helicopters to assist with relief missions and evacuation efforts, but deteriorating conditions have reduced the number of flights made and the UN now requires more heavy-duty aircraft working at full capacity to reach all those who have been cut off.

“The cost of the floods to Pakistan’s railways is not known, and won’t be until the flood waters disperse.”

Initial efforts from the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) to help deliver aid to those affected were disrupted after flood waters were feared to have reached Shahbaz Air Base, but the PAF confirmed that water was to be diverted away from the base and, it being 5ft above ground level, it would not hamper their efforts in delivering aid.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has received 12 helicopters from The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of Pakistan for life operations, while three heavy-lift MI8-171 helicopters arrived in Pakistan to assist with missions as part of the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).

The US Army has also pledged to aid Pakistan where and when possible, using a total of four Chinook helicopters and two Black Hawks, based in Afghanistan’s Ghazi Air base, to deliver supplies and evacuate the endangered in the northern part of the country, particularly in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where landslides have occurred.

Worse to come?

There are growing fears, however, that the worst of the disaster is yet to come.Over 200,000 people have been evacuated from the Thatta area of Sindh province, in southern coastal areas of Pakistan, where dozens of villages have been submerged following continued monsoon rain.

Already, 17,000km² of land has been destroyed by the flood waters, which promises to have a significant impact on the agricultural sector and the country’s future economic growth, with government officials claiming it could take up to three years for land to return to its previous state.