24 September 2010A group of United Nations agencies have developed a combined strategy focusing on the areas of food, health, nutrition, and water and sanitation to ensure a coordinated response to the crisis in flood-hit Pakistan and ensure the survival of millions of people. The so-called ‘Survival Strategy’ seeks to ensure a more integrated, effective and timely response to address the key factors contributing to diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, malaria, measles, cholera and malnutrition, as well as maternal and neo-natal mortality and morbidity.It is a joint effort by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Population Fund, as well as their partners.The Strategy comes as the directors of the emergency divisions of UNICEF, WHO and WFP wrapped up a visit to flood-affected areas in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and warned that the crisis is far from over and is worsening for the most vulnerable people.“The sheer scale of this disaster is unprecedented and requires unprecedented measures,” said Eric Laroche, WHO Assistant Director-General of Health Action in Crisis. “One of the many challenges we are facing is to provide assistance to people cramped in scattered spontaneous settlements, thus making it very difficult to address life threatening risks and to provide the health coverage they so desperately need,” Dr. Laroche added.WHO estimates that some 20 million people have been affected by the floods, which began in late July, including 8 million needing direct life-saving assistance.The agencies warned of the serious risks posed by unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, food shortages and a lack of access to health services, and voiced grave concern about the likelihood of disease outbreaks and deaths due to malnutrition.They noted that many of those affected by the floods come from the areas where the disease burden, malnutrition rates and health risks were already very high. “A combination of illness, food insecurity and destruction of crops is now compounding the situation, making people more vulnerable, especially children,” they stated in a news release.Louis-Georges Arsenault, Director of Emergency Programmes at UNICEF, emphasised the importance of working together to ensure the survival of those affected, particularly of children. “We have to also remember that this is an important opportunity to reach people who were already vulnerable before the floods and who were not receiving the assistance that they needed. “With sufficient resources and good collaboration, we can make great gains in tackling some of the problems that have been present here for a long time. This is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss,” he added. WFP, for its part, voiced serious concern about the nutritional situation of those affected by the floods. “We urgently need to keep feeding people in this crisis – food provision is the cornerstone of any strategy to assist people and to prevent malnutrition,” said David Kaatrud, Director of Emergencies at WFP. During the visit, the joint UN team visited key emergency relief programmes related to health, food and nutrition activities and took park in an aerial survey of some of the most recent and worst hit areas in Dadu and Sehwan in Sindh province.They called on the international community to continue its support and to respond urgently to the recently revised floods response plan issued by the UN which seeks more than $2 billion to provide assistance for up to 14 million people affected by the floods over a 12-month period.
The appeal comes after the reunion of Estela de Carlotto, President of the Argentinian human rights organisation Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, with her grandson after a 36-year search. He was born in 1978 to Ms. de Carlotto’s daughter, Laura, who was disappeared by the military regime. He was taken away as a baby from his mother who was subsequently killed, and his identity has been substituted all these years. “What happened to Ms. de Carlotto should be of hope and encouragement for all the families across the globe who tirelessly continue the search for their loved ones,” the experts said in a statement released by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR). “However, it is essential that families of disappeared and organizations working on their behalf be fully supported by States that should assume their duty to secure the rights for truth, justice and reparation.” The experts are from the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances; the Committee on Enforced Disappearances; as well as the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff; and the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, Morad El-Shazly.“Events like this reinforce our strong commitment and resolve to continue our work to solve each case of enforced disappearance before us,” the Working Group added. “The enforced disappearance of a child is an extreme form of violence against children, and an exacerbation of the violation of the rights protected by the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.” The Committee on Enforced Disappearances also noted that Ms. de Carlotto and her organization were one of the main actors who pushed for the draft and adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. “Ms. de Carlotto, like many other women, channelled her personal tragedy in a campaign for the hundreds of thousands who have disappeared. Therefore, it is highly symbolical that her courage and tireless fight have finally led to the identification of her grandson,” the Committee’s experts added.“It is now our duty to intensify our efforts to promote the ratification and implementation of the Convention by all States, as a preventive tool against the repetition of such tragedies,” the Committee’s experts stressed.“Thousands of cases of enforced disappearance continue to be unresolved. Behind each is a personal story,” said Morad El-Shazly. “We should never forget that throughout the world there are mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, daughters, sons, siblings and friends who are still waiting to know the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones.”