Double whammy of disease, displacement for flood victims

Our Correspondent & News Desk
Thursday, Sep 22, 2022

KARACHI: The outbreak of disease in the flood-ravaged areas has multiplied the woes of calamity-stricken people of Sindh as six more people have died of gastroenteritis and other illnesses, taking the death toll in Sindh to 707 and 1,575 across the country.

During the last 24 hours, two died of gastroenteritis, as many of pyrexia, one each of cardiopulmonary arrest and myocardial infarction, as per the Sindh Health Department.

Overall, 324 people have died of skin infections, diarrhoea and malaria in parts of flood-ravaged regions. Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the floods are living in the open and as floodwaters — spread over hundreds of kilometres — may take two to six months to recede. Also stagnant waters have led to serious health issues. Authorities have also warned that the situation may get out of control if required aid doesn’t arrive.

“We know, it can make us sick, but what to do, we have to drink it to stay alive,” flood victim Ghulam Rasool told local Geo News TV. “The aid is slow to arrive,” said Dr Farah Naureen, Mercy Corps’ country director for Pakistan, after visiting several submerged regions.

Health and nutrition are the most important needs of the displaced population, she added. The Sindh government said that makeshift health facilities and mobile camps in the flooded areas had treated more than 78,000 patients in the last 24 hours and more than 2 million since July 1.

In a televised speech on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said it was imperative to donate nutrition packs for children, who are not getting enough to eat due to the devastation. “Pakistan is facing its toughest time. The destruction in Pakistan is visible to the entire world,” the premier said.

Meanwhile, the UNICEF has renewed its appeal for $39 million to help the most vulnerable flood victims. Only a third of the sum in the funding appeal has been met so far, UNICEF said in a statement. Pakistani doctors and medical workers are struggling to contain the outbreak of waterborne diseases, malaria, and dengue fever among hundreds of thousands of survivors now living in tents in Sindh.

UNICEF said more than 3.4 million children have been displaced from their homes and the floodwaters have claimed the lives of more than 550 children across Pakistan. “Without a significant surge in support, we fear many more children will lose their lives,” UNICEF said in a statement.

According to PDMA’s daily situation report, as many as seven deaths, including six in Sindh and one in Balochistan, were reported during the last 24 hours. In flood-related deaths, Sindh tops with 707 casualties, followed by 306 in KP, 301 in Balochistan, 191 in Punjab, 48 in AJ&K and 22 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

In addition, as many as 12,862 people have been injured due to flash floods across the country since June 14. The climatic flood has affected over 33 million people and incurred a loss of around $30 billion.

The water level at Manchhar Lake continues to drop as 0.15 million cusecs water was being discharged into the Indus River daily. According to Sindh Irrigation Department, the water level at the Manchhar Lake has dropped to RL 120.2.

Given the catastrophic situation in the province, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah urged the international community to step forward for rehabilitation of the flood victims. Talking to the media during his visit to rain-affected areas at union councils Jarwar and Yaro Lund in Ghotki district, he said, “We need tents for flood victims as they would stay in camps till construction of their houses.”

The Sindh government has to rebuild the irrigation system, restore agricultural lands and water drainage system, said the Sindh CM, adding the government was trying to convince farmers to cultivate the winter crops, especially the wheat crop. Shah said efforts are being made to drain out water from 75 percent of the submerged agricultural fields.

He promised to provide cash support to the farmers and added that medical camps had also been set up in the relief camps to provide prompt treatment to the flood victims. The government is also supplying medicines to the camps for treatment of patients suffering from dengue and malaria, Shah said.