Pakistani health authorities on Thursday reported an outbreak of waterborne diseases in areas affected by recent historic flooding, as authorities redouble efforts to ensure clean water supplies to the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their home because of the disaster.
Diarrhoea, skin diseases and eye infections are spreading in government-approved camps across the nation. In one of the most affected regions, Sindh, 90,000 cases of diarrhea have been registered in the last 24 hours, according to the report published by the health authorities.
The latest developments come a day after Pakistan and the World Health Organization expressed concern about the spread of such ailments among flood victims. Pakistan blames climate change for unusually early and heavy monsoon rains that, since June, have caused flash floods, leaving 1,191 dead and 33 million affected. About a million homes were damaged or destroyed.
The water level continued to drop in most of the country, but many districts in the southern province of Sindh remained submerged.
About half of those displaced by the floods live in temporary camps. In Sindh, thousands of field medical centers have been set up in the affected places to treat the victims, said Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, Minister of Health of the region. In addition, portable medical units have been mobilized. The WHO explained that it increased the monitoring of cases of acute diarrhea, cholera and other communicable diseases, and provides medical supplies to care centers.
The doctors said that while initially treating mostly patients traumatized by the floods, they are now treating thousands suffering from diarrhoea, skin infections and other waterborne ailments. Many pregnant women living in affected areas are also at risk.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, 6.4 million flood victims need help in the country. There are around 650,000 pregnant women in the affected areas, of which the 73,000 expected to give birth in the next month need specific care.
Meanwhile, rescuers, backed by the army, continued to work to evacuate those trapped to safety. The teams are mainly using boats, although the operation also has helicopters to reach places where problems with roads and bridges prevent evictions and food distribution.