WHO raises alarm over disease in flood-hit areas of Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) – The World Health Organization sounded the alarm on Saturday about a “second disaster” in Pakistan in the wake of deadly flooding this summer, as doctors and medical workers raced to the ground to fight outbreaks of waterborne and other diseases. Huh.

Flood waters began to recede in the worst-hit provinces this week, but many displaced – who are now living in tents and makeshift camps – increasingly face the risk of gastrointestinal infections, dengue fever and malaria, which are increasing. Dirty and stagnant water has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Unprecedented monsoon rains since mid-June, Which many experts link to climate change, And the floods that followed killed 1,545 people across Pakistan, submerged millions of acres and affected 33 million people. So far 552 children have died in the floods.

“I am deeply concerned about the prospect of a second disaster in Pakistan: a wave of disease and death following this catastrophe, linked to climate change, which has severely affected critical health systems, leaving millions vulnerable, WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement.

“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 that nearly 2,000 health facilities in Pakistan have been completely or partially damaged and urged donors to continue to respond generously so that more lives can be saved.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif left for New York on Saturday to attend the first full-fledged personal 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.

Before his departure, Sharif urged philanthropists and aid agencies to donate baby food for children along with blankets, clothes and other food items for the flood victims, saying they were eagerly waiting for aid.

Southern Sindh and southwestern Balochistan provinces have been worst affected – hundreds of thousands now live in temporary homes in Sindh and officials say it will take months to completely drain the waters in the province.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority, nationwide floods have damaged 1.8 million homes, washed away roads and destroyed nearly 400 bridges.

Imran Baloch, head of the government-run district hospital in Jafrabad in Balochistan’s Dera Allah Yar district, said that of the 300 people tested daily, around 70% are positive for malaria.

Baloch told the Associated Press that after malaria, typhoid fever and skin infections are most commonly seen in displaced people who live in unhygienic conditions for weeks.

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

Khalid Mushtaq, who is leading a team of doctors from the Alkhidmat Foundation and the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, said they are treating more than 2,000 patients a day and are also providing a month’s supply of kits that contain water purification equipment. Including pills, soap and other items.

On Friday, Abdullah Fadil, the UN Children’s Agency’s representative in Pakistan, said after visiting flood-hit areas of Sindh that an estimated 16 million children have been affected by the floods. He added that UNICEF is “doing everything possible to support affected children and families and protect them from the current dangers of water-borne diseases.”

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

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