News / Asia

Pakistani, UN Officials Report Rise in Infectious Disease Due to Flood

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Pakistani and U.N. officials say that deadly waterborne and a number of other infectious diseases are on the rise among victims of the country's worst floods in history. As the country's president puts it, Pakistan could take years to recover from the natural disaster that has displaced millions of people across the country.

Pakistani troops, local charities and U.N-led international agencies are making frantic efforts to provide food, water, medicine and shelter to victims of the country's worst floods in history. But nearly a month after the disaster hit Pakistan, humanitarian workers say millions of flood-ravaged people have received little or no help.

While rising floodwaters are threatening to uproot more Pakistanis, officials and aid agencies are increasingly worried about health issues in the disaster zone.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told a meeting of on Tuesday that the government has so far distributed 200 tons of medicine and supplies to 2.2 million people.  But, he said that Pakistan on its own cannot respond to what he described enormous health needs of the flood victims because of the damage the floods have caused.  

"It has damaged more than 200 health facilities. About 35,000 lady health workers, out of a total of 100,000 throughout the country, have been displaced. Doctors, nurses, lady health visitors and paramedical staff have also been dislocated in the affected areas. The magnitude of the destruction due to these floods is not only colossal but multi dimensional," Gilani said.

The Pakistani prime minister says that acute respiratory infections, skin diseases and malnutrition are spreading in the affected areas. He urged international and local aid agencies to help the government to frame a coordinated medical rehabilitation policy.

Stacy Winston, a spokesperson for the U.N Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says that a number of infectious diseases are on the rise among flood victims and aid workers have provided medical care to some 1.8 million people. But the U.N spokeswoman says providing shelter to the victims' families is still a major challenge.

"We have reached through the humanitarian community and the International Organization for Migration about one million people with emergency shelter. But almost five million that are still in need of some sort of emergency shelter, tents and plastic sheeting," Winston stated.

Authorities say that tens of thousands of people are still in danger from rising flood waters in southern Pakistan where authorities are making desperate efforts to strengthen embankments.

Pakistani leaders estimated the floods have directly affected some 20 million people and have caused widespread damaged to cash crops, agricultural land as well as the country's irrigation system.

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