Flood-hit Pakistanis facing serious health risk

By Awais Saleem, IANS,

Islamabad : Of the 20 million people displaced by floods in Pakistan, at least 10 percent are facing serious health risks as hundreds of skin disease and diarrhoea cases have been detected in the flood-hit areas across the country.

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Amidst reports of a cholera outbreak in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, two cases have been reported and samples collected for tests by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“However, they cannot be called cholera patients at this stage but cases of acute diarrhoea,” sources told IANS.

There is a serious threat of an outbreak of communicable water-borne diseases in relief camps because health facilities in the make-shift camps are insufficient to address the huge demand.

The lack of safe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions is making the situation even worse, they said.

Several districts in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan are facing a scarcity of safe drinking water and cases of gastroenteritis have increased in the rainy season. The floods and the huge number of displaced people have only multiplied the number of cases.

Donor agencies, supervised by the ministry of health and WHO, are working hard to meet the needs of the displaced people. As many as 15 diarrhoeal treatment centres have been set up in flood-hit areas, in addition to mobile healthcare units.

While free drugs for malaria are being distributed among the people, the health ministry has asked the Unicef to provide half a million “long-lasting” mosquito-nets to protect the flood victims against malaria.

The sources, however, said these will have to be imported because such nets are unavailable in Pakistan, while only two local companies manufacture tablets for malaria control.

Federal Health Secretary Khushnood Akhtar Lashari told IANS that over 150 tonnes of medicines have been dispatched to flood-ravaged areas. The health risk was being compounded by displacement of people in such large numbers as well as inaccessibility in certain areas, he said.