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Threat of waterborne disease looms in Pakistan

5 October 2011

In southern Pakistan, stagnant floodwaters are creating breeding grounds for waterborne diseases, and the threat of malaria, diarrhoea, cholera and skin infections looms for thousands of people.

Majda Shabbir, reporting for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from Islamabad, said: “Animal waste and the bodies of dead animals in the floodwaters are increasing the threat of disease. Access to clean drinking water is the primary need for around 690,000 people who’ve fled to relief camps, and those who’ve taken refuge on higher ground by road sides.”

The British Red Cross is supporting the Pakistan Red Crescent Society’s operation in Sindh – the province worst affected by the floods. So far, it has set up three water treatment plants in the districts of Badin, Mirpurkhas and Benazirabad, reaching over 127,000 people with 638,700 litres of safe drinking water. In addition, over 39,000 water purification tablets or sachets have been distributed to more than 6,200 people.

Safe drinking water

Red Cross vehicle makes its way through the flood waters in Pakistan© InfoRamji and his wife Reshma travelled three kilometres to get to one of the water distribution points. “The water near our area is contaminated and full of germs,” Ramji said. “We can’t afford to drink it, so it is better to travel all the way here. At least we know the water here is safe.”

The Pakistan Red Crescent Society is setting up two more water plants at locations closer to the displaced populations in Badin and Benazirabad, while a third new plant will expand the production capacity in Mirpurkhas.

It costs almost £8,000 to run a water treatment plant for a month. Each plant produces 30,000 litres in a day and more than 9,000 people are being helped by the three plants already operating.

British Red Cross support

Barry Armstrong, British Red Cross disaster response manager, said: “More than nine million people are affected and the authorities are describing it as the worst disaster to hit Sindh province in living memory.

“We urgently need more funds to support the Pakistan Red Crescent Society’s operation. We need to act quickly to reduce the immediate threat people face in the camps through health and hygiene promotion and by providing more clean water and sanitation facilities.”

Find out more about the Pakistan floods

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