2 August - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has begun distributing food to more than 35,000 families affected by the worst floods northwest Pakistan has seen in decades, which have affected some one million people in the area.

According to media reports, more than 1,000 people have died in the flooding, unleashed by torrential monsoons which are said to be the worst in living memory.

“We are deeply saddened to hear that so many people who have already suffered terribly in recent years are now seeing their lives washed away. We stand with them as they deal with this enormous shock,” said the agency's Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

“WFP is mobilizing every possible resource to make sure their needs are met as quickly as is humanly possible,” she added.

The first emergency rations for flood victims reached some 3,000 families yesterday in Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsadda, three of the hardest-hit areas.

The parts of Pakistan affected most by the flooding are also among the poorest in the country, where WFP is already helping nearly 3 million people uprooted by violence along the border with Afghanistan.

The agency plans to scale up its assistance to feed up to 150,000 more families who lost what little they had to the raging floodwaters over the next two to three months.

The floods have caused major damage to infrastructure, including roads and dozens of bridges, isolating some heavily affected areas, in addition to thousands of homes.

A WFP warehouse for food supplies for both Pakistan and Afghanistan has also sustained damage, which could further complicate efforts to distribute urgently-needed supplies.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported some 27,000 people are still waiting to be evacuated from flooded areas in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province.

WFP is assisting with the Government's damage assessment in the worst affected districts, as well as working to determine the extent of the damage across the border in Afghanistan, where heavy flooding has also been reported.

Yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he is “deeply saddened by the significant loss of lives, livelihoods and infrastructure in Pakistan,” pledging the UN's “full commitment” to supporting authorities to meet humanitarian needs.

He also announced that on top of the aid that the world body is already providing, up to $10 million will be disbursed from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), set up in 2006 to allow the UN to dispatch funds to tackle disasters and crises as soon as they emerge, to help address needs in Pakistan following the floods.

The Pakistan Emergency Fund, which managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), currently contains another $8 million and humanitarian partners will be able to draw from it to finance their relief efforts.

Over the weekend, a rapid assessment mission headed by Martin Mogwanja, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, visited Nowshera and Charsada districts by helicopter and saw widespread damage and urgent humanitarian needs, OCHA reported. Bad weather prevented the mission from reaching Swat and Shangla districts.

A rapid assessment by WFP in Nowshera, Charsadda, Mardan and Peshawar put the number of those who have lost their homes or are displaced at 980,000. The assessment found that around 80,000 homes have been destroyed and 50,000 damaged the four districts alone.

WHO has noted an increase in diarrhoea cases due to the use of contaminated water, saying there was an urgent need for diarrhoea treatment kits, psychosocial support, campaigns to promote hygiene, water chlorination of water, tents for temporary health facilities and vaccination drives.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has provided tents and non-food items to the provincial authorities, while WHO and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) are providing support and medical supplies. UNICEF is also supporting the local authorities in providing clean drinking water to 700,000 people.