ISLAMABAD - The United Nations has cautioned that funding constraints would seriously hamper the provision of rapid response and life-saving assistance in the event of floods during this year's monsoon season while 1.5 million affectees of the last year floods may still require humanitarian assistance.

"Humanitarian partners have compiled information on relief stocks available in the country and requirements in case of an emergency response for up to five million people. Notably, funding constraints have left humanitarian partners with low relief stocks, which will hamper the provision of rapid response and life-saving assistance in the event of floods during this year's monsoon season," a fresh humanitarian update issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says. As the ongoing summer season touches its peak, the arrival of the monsoon season heads nearer to forecast heavy flash floods for the fourth consecutive year. In the wake of the expected start of the pre-monsoon rains by this month-end, the UN agencies, in coordination with the government authorities, make standby arrangements.

However, the plight of the 1.5 million people affected by the last year floods, mostly based in Sindh, largely goes unnoticed. "It would be very difficult to manage a coordinated and consolidated humanitarian response this year if funds don't arrive in time given that there've already been more than a million people who need assistance," a country representative at a UN agency commented while citing the estimations of Pakistani authorities, UN agencies and international humanitarian partners predictive of heavy floods as result of monsoon rains this year.

"Funding constraints have been a major concern in Pakistan and other parts of the globe because the emergencies, man-made conflicts and natural disasters just keep happening," the UN official said.

The OCHA update says many people in the flood-affected areas remain extremely vulnerable to the impacts of hazards such as floods as a result of poverty and underdevelopment. As many as 1.5 million people in areas affected by the 2012 floods may still require humanitarian assistance, it adds. "With the monsoon season around the corner, the humanitarian partners continue to work closely with government authorities on inter-agency preparedness and response plans and conduct assessment preparedness activities. Summer monsoon rains are expected between July and September. Partners have so far conducted capacity-building workshops on disaster preparedness and response for over 170 first responders in flood-prone districts in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces," the update further says.

The OCHA Spokesperson in Pakistan Humaira Mehboob said that the UN could respond to any humanitarian situation emerging out of a natural calamity, such as floods, only on the request of the government of Pakistan. The first responding authority in any such situation would be the Pakistani government. The OCHA can assist the government in response to any humanitarian situation, if so requested. The government departments like NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) have central role in this regard. The OCHA and other UN agencies are there to provide the Pakistani authorities every possible assistance on the government's invitation," she told The Nation on Tuesday.

Regarding the humanitarian funding to be required to deal with the expected humanitarian emergency in the coming months, the spokesperson said that the disaster needs assessment (DNA) containing the estimations of the funding needs and priorities was done after the occurrence of a humanitrian emergency in any given place, in order to ascertain the magnitude of the damages done and extent of the provision of financial and other forms of humanitarian assistances required accordingly.   

Moreover, the OCHA's official data shows, in response to the UN-led humanitarian appeal for Pakistan's assistance launched year, the country (till May 30, 2013) received $ 274 million of the $ 700 million required to deal with the emergencies involving the floods and conflict displacements due to security operations in different parts of the north-western tribal areas, in the year 2012. The funds received make less than 40 per cent (l36.1 per cent) of the total needed last year. Of these funds, $ 167m were received against the required $327 million for the flood affectees and IDPs (internally displaced persons) in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In addition, $53m of the required $ 161m were received exclusively for the floods affectees humanitarian assistance.

In a conversation with this correspondent printed on December 6, 2012, Country Director UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Pakistan Kevin D Gallagher had cautioned that Pakistan faced potential threat of flash flooding in 2013, saying that over a million flood-affectees in Sindh were still in need of the food assistance.

"Climate change is causing extremely unexpected changes in the weather, a bit too quick. There've been flood predictions in Pakistan as well," he had said.

More than 15 million people in Pakistan have been affected by the flash floods triggered by the monsoon rains since the year 2010.