accessibility & help

Pakistan: health severely threatened after the floods

28 September 2010

With public health remaining one of the biggest threats to survivors of Pakistan’s floods, the British Red Cross deployed a team of sanitation and hygiene specialists to hard-hit Sindh province on 28 September.

Malaria is reported to be endemic in 36 of the 77 areas affected by the floods and suspected malaria cases are rising in Baluchistan and Sindh provinces. Also, pregnant women face the risk of giving birth in an unsafe environment without access to skilled birth attendants.

Pete Garratt, British Red Cross disaster response manager, said: “The UN now estimates around 20 million people have been affected by this disaster, the majority of whom are in need of humanitarian assistance. Most of southern Pakistan remains at least partially under water and there is a continuing risk of a public health emergency.”

Immediate threat

Child with mother at a Red Cross centre© InfoSindh province is one of the worst affected areas and continues to host the largest number of displaced people. The biggest immediate threats to survivors right now include malaria and waterborne diseases, such as diarrhoea and cholera.

The British Red Cross mass sanitation emergency response unit (ERU) will focus on hygiene promotion and getting people to behave responsibly about where they go to the toilet, designating appropriate areas for this.

Jean Gilardi, ERU team leader, said: “We’ll need to do assessments when we get out there but we’ll probably be providing services to several camps – as a team we can reach 20,000 people.

“It’s an area we were deployed to during previous floods in 2007 so we are familiar with it.
But how we work and exactly what we do really depends on what we find on the ground when we get there. The team is being deployed for four weeks but there could be further teams taking over from us after we leave – it all depends on the situation.” 

Red Cross support

Across the country, the Pakistan Red Crescent has 29 medical and mobile health clinics that have treated more than 118,000 patients, many of whom are suffering with acute watery diarrhoea, which can be life-threatening.

Many people will require food for months to come and aid agencies are going to be stretched to capacity to respond. If farmers can plant wheat before the end of the year it will help, but this is unlikely in many areas – either because the water has not receded, or there is not time to reach them with seeds.

So far the Pakistan Red Crescent, with support from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, has distributed food and other emergency relief items, such as blankets and tents, to more than one million people.

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