Villagers displaced by flooding in Pakistan pull a makeshift raft, with a woman sitting on top with her belongings, while they return to their flooded village near Dadu, in Pakistan’s Sindh province. CNS photo
BANGALORE – Church charities have joined the Pakistani government and other charity workers to fight growing health care problems that have gripped the victims of the worst flooding in Pakistan’s history. “The water has receded, but the flood victims are now faced with serious health problems,” said Eric Dayal, national coordinator for disaster management of Caritas Pakistan, the local arm of the international Catholic charitable network.
“We are sending our medical teams to remote areas where other agencies have not reached,” Dayal told Catholic News Service from his office in Lahore Nov 3.
More than 20 million people were affected and more than 1,600 people died in floods that began in July with incessant rains in Pakistan’s mountainous north and inundated the length and breadth of the nation within a month.
Due to lack of clean drinking water and breading of mosquitoes in stagnant waters, diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dengue and malaria have spread rapidly among the flood victims.
The World Health Organisation confirmed 99 cases of cholera and 300,000 suspected cases of malaria among the displaced.
Pakistan’s health department reported that by Oct 28, nearly 2.3 million flood victims have been treated in 236 relief camps for various diseases, while 176 people have died, including 64 from diarrhoea linked to lack of clean drinking water. Nearly 480 people have died of snake bites because the habitats of the snakes were disturbed by the flooding.
Dayal said nearly 10,000 people in remote areas have been treated in two dozen medical camps run by Caritas in Multan, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad dioceses. “The health impact of the flood is coming out now. Waterborne diseases are on the rise,” said Dr Mariam Richard, a professor at the Fatima Jinnah Medical College in Lahore. “Mosquitoes are breeding in stagnant waters and dengue has now reached epidemic proportions even among those not affected by the floods,” she told CNS.
She also said flood victims are suffering from skin diseases and respiratory problems due to lack of access to clean water. “Enough attention is not being paid to women and children who are suffering from acute malnutrition,” she added. Relief workers said more than 1,200 babies have been born in camps, while government health workers have documented 1,700 deliveries among other flood victims, many of them homeless. Jack Byrne, country representative of the US bishops’ Catholic Relief Services, told CNS that after providing the initial emergency relief supplies, the agency began focusing on clean drinking water and hygiene awareness.
Besides targeting water sources such as flooded wells and tanks, Byrne said, CRS is distributing water purifying kits and spreading awareness about hygiene among flood victims.