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UN: 5.7 million Pakistani flood victims to face food crisis

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The United Nations humanitarian agency warned Monday that about 5.7 million Pakistani flood survivors will face a serious food crisis in the next three months.

A top U.N. official announced an increase in the humanitarian appeal for Pakistan to $816 million, from $160 million, amid rising deaths from disease.

In Geneva, Julien Harneis, the U.N. resident coordinator in Pakistan, told reporters that aid agencies needed more funds to prevent a “second wave of destruction" from waterborne and other diseases in Pakistan. He said the U.N. weeks ago issued an appeal for $160 million in emergency funding to respond to the floods but considering the scale of devastation, the Aug. 30 appeal was not enough.

The latest development comes hours after Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority reported that floods fueled by abnormally heavy monsoon rains have killed 1,695 people, affected 33 million, damaged more than 2 million homes and displaced hundreds of thousands now living in tents or makeshift homes.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its latest report Saturday said the current floods are expected to exacerbate food insecurity in Pakistan and said 5.7 million people in flood-affected areas will be facing a food crisis between September and November.

Even before the floods, according to the World Health Organization, 16% of the population was living in moderate or severe food insecurity.

However, Pakistan's government insists that there is no immediate worry about food supplies, as wheat stocks are enough to last through the next harvest and that the government is importing more.

The U.N. agency said in a tweet on Monday that the agency and other partners have scaled up their flood response and delivered aid to 1.6 million people directly affected by the deluges.

OCHA said outbreaks of waterborne and other diseases are on the rise in Sindh and southwestern Baluchistan provinces, where floods have caused the most damage since mid-June.

Several countries and U.N. agencies have sent more than 131 flights carrying aid for survivors, but many are complaining they have either received too little help or are still waiting for it.

The U.N. humanitarian agency also said in its Saturday report that rainfall in Baluchistan and Sindh lightened substantially over the past week, as temperatures start to decrease ahead of winter.

“Normal conditions are prevailing in most districts of Baluchistan, while in Sindh, the Indus River is flowing normally,” said OCHA. Overall, it added, in 18 out of 22 districts of Sindh, floodwater levels had receded at least 34%, and in some districts up to 78%.

The OCHA report also highlighted the ordeal of flood survivors, saying many continue to live in “unsanitary conditions in temporary shelters, often with limited access to basic services, compounding the risk of a major public health crisis."

It said pregnant women are being treated in temporary camps when possible, and nearly 130,000 pregnant women need urgent health services.

“Already before the floods, Pakistan had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Asia, with the situation likely to deteriorate,” it said.

Pakistan says floods caused about $30 billion of damage to its economy.

Floods washed away thousands of kilometers of roads, destroyed 440 bridges, and disrupted railroad traffic.

Pakistan Railways said it has started restoring train service from Sindh to other cities after repairing some of the tracks damaged by floods.

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