Officials in Pakistan as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Wednesday that a health crisis could follow the devastating floods in the country that have cost at least 1,160 lives and affected more then 33 million people.
“WHO is working with health authorities to respond quickly and effectively on the ground,” said Dr. Palitha Mahipala, the WHO representative in Pakistan. “Our key priorities now are to ensure rapid access to essential health services to the flood-affected population, (to) strengthen and expand disease surveillance, outbreak prevention and control, and ensure robust health cluster coordination.”
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On top of the 888 clinics and hospitals damaged or destroyed by the flooding, the damage to infrastructure has also made reaching health services more difficult. WHO has also raised the alarm about the possibility of waterborne diseases spreading rapidly. The climate change-driven “monsoons on steroids,” as United Nations chief Antonio Guterres put it, have been raging since mid-June and put one-third of the country underwater.
Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, health minister in the country’s worst-affected province of Sindh, said officials have set up 4,210 medical camps in the province’s flood-hit areas to treat victims now suffering from skin and waterborne diseases, which are common during floods. Doctors in Pakistan have also reported widespread issues with mental trauma following the flooding.
Local authorities have been deploying emergency medical teams to dispatch medicine and provide clean drinking water to the many flood victims currently living in tents and makeshift camps.
Rescuers search worst-hit areas
Pakistani authorities backed by the military, rescuers and volunteers, have struggled to evacuate marooned people to safer places. On Wednesday, military helicopters continued evacuating flood victims and delivering food to remote regions, according to a statement released by the military. It said it has deployed at least 6,500 troops to assist in rescue and relief operations.
Rescuers were also using boats to evacuate stranded people in southern Sindh province and in remote villages in eastern Punjab province.
WHO’s warning about the spread of disease came a day after government officials in Pakistan said it would take an estimated $10 billion (€10 billion) to rebuild the flood-ravaged areas of the country.