Pakistan floods: newborns likely to be malnourished

By Awais Saleem, IANS,

Islamabad : Pakistani health officials fear that the more than 85,000 babies expected to be born in the country’s flood-affected areas over the next six months will be malnourished because of scarce food supply.

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There is also a serious threat of polio and measles outbreak amongst newborns and officials are trying to put in place preventive measures, health sources told IANS.

Pakistan’s worst ever floods, which began three weeks ago, have killed over 1,600 people and displaced about 20 million others in the country. The deluge submerged one-fifth of the country, making it difficult for aid workers and officials to provide relief to the victims.

Although relief camps have been set up for the flood victims, the facilities are insufficient.

The affected people are complaining of shortage of food items; there are also complaints of substandard food being supplied. Protests have taken place in several areas as authorities grapple with the challenge of rehabilitating the large numbers of people.

Federal Health Secretary Khushnood Akhtar Lashari said a vaccination campaign for 100 percent measles coverage had been chalked out in consultation with World Health Organisation (WHO) and other donors.

“We require Rs.400 million to make it possible and the plan is being passed on to the provinces for implementation,” Lashari told IANS.

He said the devastation of basic health units in rural areas had made it difficult to address the challenge.

However, mobile units had been set up and health workers in those areas had been directed to provide free vitamin tablets to women in particular as well as vaccinate babies against polio, he said.