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Today: Thursday, December 14, 2017
 
U.N. fears for children as Pakistan floods threaten towns
 
KARACHI (Reuters) ? Flood waters threatened to engulf two towns in southern Pakistan on

Saturday, a month after the disaster began, as the United Nations warned that tens of

thousands of children risked death from malnutrition.
The floods are Pakistan's worst-ever natural disaster in terms of the amount of damage

and the number of people affected, with more than six million people forced from their

homes, about a million of them in the last few days as the water flows south.
The disaster has killed about 1,600 people, inflicted billions of dollars of damage to homes,

infrastructure and the vital agriculture sector and stirred anger against the U.S.-backed

government which has struggled to cope.
Floodwaters are beginning to recede across most of the country as the water flows

downstream, but high tides in the Arabian Sea meant they still posed a threat to towns in

Sindh province such as Thatta, 70 km (45 miles) east of Karachi.
Water had broken the banks of the Indus near Thatta and also broken out of a feeder canal

running off the river, compounding the danger, Riaz Ahmed Soomro, relief commissioner in

the southern province of Sindh, told Reuters.
The water has not reached the town up to now but it is approaching, Soomro said.
(For a slideshow, click

http://in.reuters.com/news/pictures/slideshow?articleId=USRTR2HK8R)
Tens of thousands of people have poured out of the delta town, which normally has a

population of about 300,000, after authorities told people to leave.
The floods began in late July after torrential monsoon downpours over the upper Indus

basin.
Even before the floods, Pakistan's economy was fragile. Growth, forecast at 4.5 percent

this fiscal year, is now predicted at anything between zero and 3 percent.
The floods have damaged at least 3.2 million hectares (7.9 million acres) -- about 14

percent of Pakistan's entire cultivated land -- according to the United Nation's food agency.

The total cost in crop damages is believed to be about 245 billion rupees ($2.86 billion.)
Authorities have been battling for days to save the town of Shahdadkot in northern Sindh's

rice-growing belt, raising an embankment several kilometres long as the water has crept

higher.
The flood barrier was still holding, Soomro said.
The United Nations said aid workers were becoming increasingly worried about disease and

hunger, especially among children in areas where even before the disaster, acute

malnutrition was high.
We fear the deadly synergy of waterborne diseases, including diarrhoea, dehydration and

malnutrition, senior UNICEF official Karen Allen said in a statement.
U.N. humanitarian coordinator Martin Mogwanja said the international response to the

disaster must be more assertive.
If nothing is done, an estimated 72,000 children, currently affected by severe malnutrition

in the flood-affected areas, are at high risk of death, he said.
(Additional reporting by Rebecca Conway in Islamabad; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by

Nick Macfie)
(For more news visit Reuters India)
 
 
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