WHO Raises Alarm on Disease in Flood-hit Areas of Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — The World Health Organization raised the alarm Saturday about a “second disaster” in the wake of the deadly floods in Pakistan this summer, as doctors and medical workers on the ground race to battle outbreaks of waterborne and other diseases.

The floodwaters started receding this week in the worst-hit provinces but many of the displaced — now living in tents and makeshift camps — increasingly face the threat of gastrointestinal infections, dengue fever and malaria, which are on the rise. Mosquitoes have thrived in stagnant and dirty waters.

Unprecedented monsoon rains from mid-June that many experts have linked to climate change and the subsequent flooding in Pakistan has killed 1,545 people and caused massive damage to millions of acres and displaced 33 million people. The floods also claimed 552 lives.

“I am deeply concerned about the potential for a second disaster in Pakistan: a wave of disease and death following this catastrophe, linked to climate change, that has severely impacted vital health systems leaving millions vulnerable,” WHO’s 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 deliver essential health services, we can significantly reduce the impact of this impending crisis.”

A WHO chief stated that Pakistan has nearly 22,000 damaged health facilities. The WHO chief also urged donors for continued generous support to ensure that Pakistani lives are saved.

Shahbaz Sharif is the Pakistani Prime Minister. She left Pakistan for New York Saturday in order to join the U.N. General Assembly. This was the first meeting that took place in person since the pandemic. Sharif will ask for international help to end the crisis.

Sharif, before he left, urged aid agencies and philanthropists to send baby food and blankets for flood victims. He said they had been desperate for help and were waiting on aid.

The southern Sindh and southwestern Baluchistan provinces have been the worst hit — hundreds of thousands in Sindh live now in makeshift homes and authorities say it will take months to completely drain the water in the province.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority, flooding has destroyed almost 400 bridges and damaged nearly 1.8 million houses across the country.

Imran Baluch from Jafferabad in Baluchistan is head of the government-run Jafferabad district hospital. It serves 300 patients daily.

Baluch said that after malaria, typhoid and skin diseases are more common among those who have been displaced. These people often live for many weeks in poor hygiene.

Sultan Mustafa was a pediatrician who treated 600 children at the Dua Foundation field clinic in Jhuddo in Sindh. The majority of these patients were women and children suffering from gastrointestinal diseases, dengue or scabies.

Khalid Mushtaq, heading 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 were also providing kits containing a month’s supply of water-purification tablets, soaps and other items.

On Friday, the representative of the U.N. children’s agency in Pakistan, Abdullah Fadil, said after visiting Sindh’s flood-hit areas that an estimated 16 million children had been impacted by the floods. He said UNICEF was doing everything it can “to support children and families affected and protect them from the ongoing dangers of water-borne diseases.”

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