A Pakistani man drinks water from a hand-pump in a flooded area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. (file photo)
The United Nations children's agency UNICEF says that six months after catastrophic floods struck Pakistan, more than 10 million people, including children, living in flood-affected areas still have no access to safe drinking water.
UNICEF said in a statement on March 21 that the lack of clean water is forcing many families with no alternative but to drink and use "potentially disease-ridden water."
The prolonged lack of access to safe drinking water and sewage systems, along with the continued proximity of vulnerable families to bodies of stagnant water, are contributing to the widespread outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dengue, and malaria, UNICEF said, adding that unsafe water and poor sanitation are key underlying causes of malnutrition.
"Safe drinking water is not a privilege, it is a basic human right," said UNICEF's representative in Pakistan, Abdullah Fadil.
“Yet, every day, millions of girls and boys in Pakistan are fighting a losing battle against preventable waterborne diseases and the consequential malnutrition."
Last summer unprecedented monsoon rains and the flooding they sparked caused more than 1,500 deaths across Pakistan, including more than 550 children.
Many roads and bridges were washed away or are badly damaged by the disaster, leaving thousands of families with little access to food, safe water, and medicines.
In January donors pledged more than $9 billion to help Pakistan recover and rebuild following the devastating floods, which environmentalists and scientists blamed on climate change.
But the funds have been slow to come, with UNICEF saying in its statement that its current appeal of $173.5 million to provide life-saving support to women and children affected by the floods remains less than 50 percent funded.
"It is imperative that the voices and the needs of children in Pakistan are prioritized at all costs and that children are placed at the heart of all post-flood recovery and resilience plans," said Fadil.