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Flood evacuee has baby in cemetery

Jannah Soorjo was forced to give birth in a sprawling Muslim graveyard in southern Pakistan filled with hundreds of thousands of flood victims, a reminder of the pain and despair gripping the country even as the floodwaters begin to flow out to sea.

The feverish 26-year-old mother was one of 500,000 women affected by the floods whom the United Nations expects will give birth in the next six months. Many of their children will enter a world where food and water are scarce and the risk of deadly disease is high.

"I gave birth to this baby, but how can I arrange food for him here?" Soorjo said, cradling her newborn son. "He seems to be sick, and we don't have money for his treatment."

Soorjo fled to the cemetery on top of a hill in Makli four days ago to escape the floodwaters, which inundated dozens of villages and towns in her southern Sindh province.

The floods began over a month ago in the north-west after extremely heavy monsoon rains and surged south along the Indus River.

The floodwaters finally started emptying into the Arabian Sea on Tuesday, hours after swallowing the two final towns in its path, both of which had been evacuated, said disaster management official Hadi Bakhsh.

But the challenges of delivering emergency aid to 8 million people remained.

"The situation is extremely critical," said Josette Sheeran, the head of the World Food Programme, after touring flood-stricken areas with other top UN officials.

Her agency has managed to deliver food to 3 million people, but another 3 million require food aid, and that number could grow as authorities assess the damage the floods have done in the south, said Sheeran.

While the UN's children's agency has delivered fresh water to 2 million people, it still needs to reach 6 million more, and aid workers have only managed to vaccinate 10 to 15% of the children in need, said Unicef director Anthony Lake. He warned that without quick action the country was headed towards a second wave of tragedy marked by outbreaks of cholera and water-borne disease.


From Belfast Telegraph