Chicago Tribune (Sunday)

WHO: Diseases after Pakistan floods pose a ‘second disaster’

- By Zarar Khan

ISLAMABAD — The World Health Organizati­on raised the alarm Saturday about a “second disaster” in the wake of the deadly floods in Pakistan this summer, as doctors and medical workers on the ground race to battle outbreaks of waterborne and other diseases.

The floodwater­s started receding this past week in the worst-hit provinces but many of the displaced — now living in tents and makeshift camps — increasing­ly face the threat of gastrointe­stinal infections, dengue fever and malaria. The dirty and stagnant waters have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

The unpreceden­ted monsoon rains since mid-June, which many experts link to climate change, and subsequent flooding have killed 1,545 people across Pakistan, inundated millions of acres of land and affected 33 million people. As many as 552 children have also been killed in the floods.

“I am deeply concerned about the potential for a second disaster in Pakistan: a wave of disease and death following this catastroph­e, linked to climate change, that has severely impacted vital health systems leaving millions vulnerable,” WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu­s, said in a statement.

“The water supply is disrupted, forcing people to drink unsafe water,” he said. “But if we act quickly to protect health and deliver essential health services, we can significan­tly reduce the impact of this impending crisis.”

The WHO chief also said nearly 2,000 health facilities have been fully or partially damaged in Pakistan and urged donors to continue to respond generously so more lives can be saved.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif left for New York on Saturday to attend the first fully in-person gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly since the coronaviru­s pandemic. Sharif will appeal for more help from the internatio­nal community to tackle the disaster.

Before his departure,

Sharif urged philanthro­pists and aid agencies to donate baby food for children, along with blankets, clothes and other food items for the flood victims, saying they were desperatel­y waiting for aid.

Nationwide, floods have damaged 1.8 million homes, washed away roads and destroyed nearly 400 bridges, according to the National Disaster Management Authority.

Imran Baluch, head of a government-run district hospital in Jafferabad, in Baluchista­n, said that out of 300 people tested daily, nearly 70% are positive for malaria.

After malaria, typhoid fever and skin infections are most commonly seen among the displaced, living for weeks in unhygienic conditions, Baluch said.

Khalid Mushtaq, heading a team of doctors from the Alkhidmat Foundation and the Pakistan Islamic Medical Associatio­n, said they are treating more than 2,000 patients a day and also providing kits containing a month’s supply of water-purificati­on tablets, soaps and other items.

 ?? ZAHID HUSSAIN/AP ?? Members of Pakistani families displaced by severe flooding jostle during a distributi­on of relief aid Saturday in Dera Allahyar, in southweste­rn Baluchista­n province.
ZAHID HUSSAIN/AP Members of Pakistani families displaced by severe flooding jostle during a distributi­on of relief aid Saturday in Dera Allahyar, in southweste­rn Baluchista­n province.

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