WHO sounds alarm over disease in flood-affected areas in Pakistan

By ZARAR KHAN, Associated Press

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The World Health Organization sounded the alarm on Saturday about a “second disaster” following deadly floods in Pakistan this summer, as doctors and medical staff on the ground rush to control water-borne and other disease outbreaks.

Floodwaters began to recede this week in the worst affected provinces, but many displaced people – now living in tents and makeshift camps – are increasingly at risk of gastrointestinal infections, dengue and malaria, which are on the rise. Dirty, stagnant waters have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Unprecedented monsoon rains since mid-June, which many experts link to climate change, and subsequent flooding have killed 1,545 people across Pakistan, flooded millions of acres of land and affected 33 million people. No less than 552 children were also killed in the floods.

“I am deeply concerned about the potential for a second disaster in Pakistan: a wave of disease and death from this climate change-related disaster that has severely affected vital health systems, leaving millions of people vulnerable,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. , said in a statement.

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“The water supply is disrupted, forcing people to drink unsafe water,” he said. “But if we act quickly to protect health and provide essential health services, we can significantly reduce the impact of this impending crisis.”

The WHO chief also said nearly 2,000 health facilities have been fully or partially damaged in Pakistan and urged donors to continue to respond generously so more lives can be saved.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif left for New York on Saturday to attend the first all-in-person gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly since the coronavirus pandemic. Sharif will appeal for more help from the international community to deal with the disaster.

Ahead of his departure, Sharif urged philanthropists and aid agencies to donate baby food to children, as well as blankets, clothes and other food items to flood victims, saying they were desperate for help. ugly.

The southern provinces of Sindh and southwestern Balochistan have been worst hit – hundreds of thousands of people in Sindh are now living in makeshift homes and authorities say it will take months to completely drain the water. provincial water.

Across the country, the floods damaged 1.8 million homes, washed away roads and destroyed nearly 400 bridges, according to the National Disaster Management Authority.

Imran Baluch, head of a government-run district hospital in Jafferabad, Dera Allah Yar district of Balochistan, said that out of 300 people tested daily, almost 70% are positive for malaria.

After malaria, typhoid fever and skin infections are most commonly seen among displaced people, living for weeks in unsanitary conditions, Baluch told The Associated Press.

Pediatrician Sultan Mustafa said he treated some 600 patients at a field clinic set up by the Dua Foundation charity in the Jhuddo region of Sindh, mostly women and children with gastrointestinal infections, scabies, malaria or dengue fever.

Khalid Mushtaq, leading a team of doctors from the Alkhidmat Foundation and the Islamic Medical Association of Pakistan, said they were treating more than 2,000 patients a day and also providing kits containing a month’s worth of tablets. purification of water, soaps and other items.

On Friday, the representative of the UN children’s agency in Pakistan, Abdullah Fadil, said after visiting flooded areas in Sindh that around 16 million children had been affected by the floods. He said UNICEF was doing everything possible “to support affected children and families and protect them from the continuing dangers of waterborne diseases”.

Associated Press writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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