January 26, 2011 / 5:21 PM / 7 years ago

Pakistan's Sindh province faces acute hunger: UNICEF

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s Sindh province, hit hard by last year’s floods, is suffering levels of malnutrition almost as critical as Chad and Niger, with hundreds of thousands of children at risk, UNICEF said on Wednesday.

A survey conducted by the provincial government and the U.N. Children’s Fund revealed malnutrition rates of 23.1 percent in northern Sindh and 21.2 percent in the south.

Those rates are above the 15 percent emergency threshold set by the World Health Organization and are on a par with some of the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Northern Sindh also had a 6.1 percent severe acute malnutrition rate and southern Sindh had 2.9 percent, both far above the WHO thresholds.

“We are looking at hundreds of thousands of children at risk,” UNICEF chief of communication Kristen Elsby told Reuters.

A full report would be released Friday by the Sindh government, she said, along with the province’s response plan.

Elsby said it was unclear if the August’s floods had caused a spike in malnutrition, but that it had revealed the extent of the problem because babies and mothers were being screened for the first time.

“People were already vulnerable and this kind of kicked the chair out from under them,” she said.

Monsoon floods starting in late July last year devastated Pakistan. More than one-fifth of its territory was inundated and 20 million people affected. Ten million were left homeless and nearly 2,000 people died.

Six months later, many communities in Sindh are still surrounded by floodwaters. In Sindh and Baluchistan, some 600,000 people are still living in temporary camps, according to the World Food Program.

The United Nations appealed for $2 billion in emergency aid, but only 56 percent has been delivered, according to Oxfam.

(Additional reporting by Michael Georgy and Augustine Anthony; Editing by Nick Macfie)

For more Reuters coverage of Pakistan, see: here

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