Flood impact on children’s future

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The United Nations’ Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in its latest report on the dismal situation of primary education in Pakistan has revealed that a staggering number of more than two million children have lost access to schools and leaning facilities in the wake of the worst flooding which struck the country in August and played havoc with infrastructure, schools, healthcare facilities, road network and property along its trail.
The flooding, which has been blamed on the impacts of climate change and global warming, has damaged over 1100 schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone and impacted the studies of thousands of children in the flood hit districts, according to statistics compiled by the province’s elementary and secondary education department. Majority of losses have been caused to government-run primary schools.
Sadly enough, even before the recent disaster, one-third of boys and girls in flood-affected areas were already out of school and 50 per cent of children suffered from poor nutrition and stunting, which may be further exacerbated by closure of schools.
As the impacts of school closures triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic have yet to subside or be overcome, the flood disaster further aggravated the situation. Millions of children lost families, homes and their education overnight under the most traumatic circumstances, media reports have cited UNICEF’s Global Director of Education Robert Jenkins as saying upon returning from a visit to the flood-affected areas in Pakistan. And, a UNICEF report released after the visit of Mr Jenkins stated that over 27,000 schools were rendered inaccessible by the flooding in the country.
Official data also show that during the pandemic schools across Pakistan, as elsewhere in the world, remained fully or partially closed for as many as 64 weeks between March 2020 and March 2022. During the pandemic, restrictions on movement and closure of schools have already impacted the children more than any other segment of the society. Hot on the heels of the pandemic, the flood disaster in Pakistan deepened the uncertainty surrounding the education affairs of the country. Going by the circumstances, natural disasters have grown in intensity and frequency over the past few decades, particularly during recent years, making the poor communities in Pakistan more vulnerable and prone to the adverse impacts of climate change induced natural disasters. Tens of thousands of people have been still living under the open sky and living their life by handouts from government and charity organizations.
Now, faced with loss of homes and schools, a harsh winter is staring the people of the flood hit districts of the country in the eye. The government and the education managers need to put together their heads and find a way out of uncertainty to save the children and thereby the nation from yet another threat to their future.