Around five million people in flood-hit Pakistan, including children, may fall sick due to the outbreak of water-borne and vector-borne diseases such as typhoid and diarrhea in the next four to 12 weeks, health experts have warned.
Floods triggered by unprecedented monsoon rains have caused widespread havoc across Pakistan, killing over 1,100 people so far and destroying farmlands. Those who survived nature’s fury are facing health issues, the News International reported.
As the condition stays grim, health officials said that people in the flooded areas of Sindh, Balochistan, southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are likely to get diarrhea, cholera, gastroenteritis, typhoid and vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria.
It is estimated that a disease outbreak would initially require medicines and medical supplies worth Rs 1 billion, they said, and urged donors, philanthropists and common people to donate these after consulting health experts and officials of rescue and welfare organisations.
Of the 33 million people affected due to monsoon rains and floods across Pakistan, it is estimated that around five million people, including children, would get sick due to the outbreak of water-borne and vector-borne diseases in the next four to 12 weeks, renowned public health expert and Vice-Chancellor of the Health Services Academy (HSA) Islamabad Dr Shahzad Ali was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
”As there is no clean drinking water available in the flood-ravaged areas, there is a risk of outbreak of diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, gastroenteritis, dengue and malaria," he added. He said children would be more vulnerable due to weak immunity and warned that an outbreak of acute watery diarrhea, and other water-borne diseases could kill hundreds of children and adults if immediate preventive measures were not adopted.
There is an urgent need to vaccinate all the people in the flood affected areas against typhoid-cholera. This vaccine is available in the country and it can be deployed to prevent deaths from typhoid and cholera in Sindh and Balochistan.
Similarly, prophylactic treatment of malaria should also be started to prevent deaths from the vector-borne disease, Dr Khan said. Urging the authorities to make anti-snake venom and anti-rabies vaccines available in abundance, he said hundreds of incidents of snake-bite and dog-bite had been reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan provinces.
Former health director-general and an expert on infectious diseases Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar was of the opinion that children in the flood affected areas were the most vulnerable and needed immediate medical attention, saying immunisation programmes of the provinces should reach out to unvaccinated children.
In addition to diarrhea and other water-borne diseases, children are at the risk of getting measles which can spread like fire among the displaced populations. Polio is another threat and unfortunately, we have seen wild poliovirus 1 circulating in many cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, while it can travel to the other cities where it has not yet been found, Dr Safdar said.
On the other hand, officials of the welfare organisations working in the flood-hit areas said a large number of people, including women and children, had already started suffering from water-borne infections, including diarrhea, gastroenteritis, cholera, fever, flu, allergy, scabies and other fungal skin ailments.
We also believe that around Rs 1 billion would be required initially to meet the medical needs of sick people in the flood-hit areas as hundreds of people are getting sick due to water-borne and vector-borne diseases in these areas, said Sufyan Ahmed, Managing Director of the Al-Khidmat Health Foundation, who is coordinating with the charity and welfare organisations for relief operations in the flood-hit areas across Pakistan.
According to Ahmed, in the absence of any guidelines, a huge quantity of unwanted medicines were being donated which go to waste or are misused in the name of flood victims. In these circumstances, we have prepared guidelines for relief operations with the assistance from Pakistan Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
These guidelines provide a complete list of medicines, medical supplies and other stuff that is needed by the patients in distress at the moment, Ahmed said. In these circumstances, we have prepared guidelines for relief operations with the assistance from Pakistan Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
The health authorities, he said, were also coordinating with the local pharmaceuticals and charity and welfare organisations to help them reach out to the affected areas in dire need of medical supplies.
It’s a gigantic task and the government alone cannot handle the situation. So we are engaging all individuals and organisations and channelising the operation for effective results, he was quoted as saying in the report.