Pakistan Warns Of More Floods As Heavy Rains Fall

Pakistan has been devastated by floods, and more rain is on the way. There is rising concern that aid will not reach the millions affected by the disaster before waterborne diseases, malnutrition and exposure take their toll.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

And we begin this hour in Pakistan, where floodwaters have devastated an enormous swath of the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate vulnerable areas. Untold lives, livestock and the country's richest agricultural lands have been washed away by monsoon rains that are now forecast to last several more weeks.

NPR's Julie McCarthy is in the southern Punjab province, known as the country's farm belt, and she has this report.

JULIE MCCARTHY: As is the worst floods in a hundred years weren't bad enough, residents in ravaged areas now contend with price gouging. Vendors hock their wares at exorbitant prices in this southern Punjab city of Misufigar(ph) near the swollen Indus River.

Ironically, the cost of food has skyrocketed in Pakistan's farm belt, putting basic commodities out of the reach of people who have lost everything. There are reports that that sense of despair is turning violent. In pockets in southern Pakistan, unrest has erupted. Flood survivors blocked a highway in the city of Sukkur in Sindh province to protest the lack of assistance.

Demonstrators clashed with police and attacked officials whom many perceive to be incompetent, insensitive or both. The violence remains on a small scale. But Dr. Waseem Hoffin(ph), whose own fields have been inundated by the floods, says he's bracing for deeper turbulence.

Dr. WASEEM HOFFIN: There is not at all any sort of food. There is not at all any sort of tent. So the people, they are going to make the catharsis by beating the authorities.

MCCARTHY: Catharsis by beating the police?

Dr. HOFFIN: Yeah. So this is, you know, a very alarming situation for our, you know, here in the country.

MCCARTHY: Waseem expresses the sentiment of many Pakistanis when he sums up the government's response to this latest crisis.

Dr. HOFFIN: It means, you know, look busy, but do nothing.

MCCARTHY: The international aid agencies, however, put a different frame on this grim picture. The United Nations says, despite by the efforts by the government and international community to ramp up assistance, the geographical extent of the flood is so vast and the affected populations so large, that many people have yet to be reached.

The U.N. estimates that six million flood-affected people are in need of food assistance over the next three months. Though, officials say that this number may yet rise as the situations in the Punjab and Sindh continue to deteriorate.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, in the southern Punjab.

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