ISLAMABAD - More than 1.5 million people in 15 districts of Pakistan’s three provinces have been severely affected by the flash floods caused by the ongoing monsoon rains with more downpour expected in the coming days, United Nations indicated on Friday.

As much as 53 per cent of the total affected population is in Punjab, a latest humanitarian update issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA) stated citing the governmental figures. In addition, 75 per cent of the affected 1.46 million acres of crops are also in Punjab. More than 12,000 people are in 492 relief camps.

The update said that monsoon rains of varying intensity are expected over upper Punjab and adjoining areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and along the coastal regions of Sindh.

The water reservoirs level, according to OCHA, at Tarbela and Mangla dams is at elevations of 1,550 feet (optimum) and 1,239 feet respectively.

The latter is three feet below the optimum capacity of 1,242 feet. The combined storage position of the Tarbela, Chashma and Mangla reservoirs is 13.959 million acres feet (MAF), compared with last year’s 9.964 MAF, the update said.

The river Indus is at low flood at Guddu (upper Sindh) and high flood at Kotri (southern Sindh), OCHA said.

With the UN having no operational involvement in the humanitarian assistance vis-à-vis this year’s monsoon floods and Pakistan’s military been assigned the central role in this regard, the OCHA has appointed a focal person on the civil-military coordination and preparedness for the exchange of relevant humanitarian information between the world body and the armed force.  

Last month, the Pakistani government had decided not to seek the UN assistance to deal with the humanitarian situation caused by the monsoon floods in several parts of the country and Pakistan’s military was assigned the frontline role on this count.

The decision was taken following reported meetings this July between Lieutenant General Muhammad Asif, Director General Joint Staff Headquarters (JSHQ), Lyn Hastings, Country Director OCHA Pakistan and Lola Castro Country Director World Food Programme (WFP) Pakistan, held to get the world body’s input regarding this years’ flash floods. Reportedly, it was decided then, the UN humanitarian agencies and Pakistan’s disaster management bodies would share their contingency plans with the army, which would be primarily involved in their execution. It was also reportedly decided that the humanitarian assistance could be sought from the UN in case the precipitation impact further escalated to cause widespread destruction that could trigger enormous funding needs.

The OCHA says it can respond to any humanitarian situation for the provision of required assistance only on the request of the Government of Pakistan. The UN agency works in coordination with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and provincial disaster management authorities (PDMAs) but cannot conduct humanitarian operations without being invited by the government.

According to the Friday humanitarian update, the impact of monsoon rains has been moderate over the past week. It cites the weather forecast from Pakistan Meteorological Department indicating that rainfall recorded during August was 50 percent above the ‘historical average’ whose figure has not been provided in the update.

The OCHA indicates that 15 districts, five each in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan were ‘hardest-hit’ by the monsoon floods. Of the 1.5 million flood-affectees, the statistical details of over 1.2 million people provided by the UN humanitarian body suggest that the number of affected persons in the three provinces is as follow.

Punjab: Narowal: 222,260, Muzaffargarh: 173,444, Jhang: 127,230, Rajanpur: 95,171 and Rahim Yar Khan: 64,635. Sindh: Kashmore: 105,515, Sukkur: 79,005, Khairpur: 74,830, Jamshoro: 65,559 and Naushehro Feroze: 50,500 and a collective number of 148,889 people has been affected in Balochistan in Kacchi, Jhal Magsi, Jafferabad, Sibbi and Nasirabad districts.

The UN humanitarian body quotes the governmental figures to state that 57,834 tents, 126,400 food packs, 95,044 food cartons, 63 dewatering pumps, 31,250 mosquito nets and 17,187 blankets have been provided in the flood-affected areas.

Government authorities in flood-affected districts seem to be focusing on early recovery activities such as compensations for damaged houses and crops lost, while there are residual relief needs, the OCHA humanitarian update says, adding, stagnant water continues to pose a serious public health risk in the worst-affected areas.