After torrent, a looming epidemic ahead

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised alarm about the second disaster in flood-hit areas of Pakistan following the unprecedented floods, which killed over 1,500 people and submerged one-third of the country’s land. According to the details, WHO Chief, Tedros Adhanom told the reporters that the global health agency was deeply concerned about the potential for a second disaster in Pakistan because of a wave of diseases and deaths following this climate-induced catastrophe, seriously hurting highly vulnerable people in submerged regions. According to him, the recent floods had badly disturbed the water supply infrastructure forcing people to drink unsafe water, which can spread cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases. Tedros further said that stagnant water enabled mosquitoes to breed and spread vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue, while health centers had been flooded, their supplies were damaged and people had moved away from homes which made it harder for them to access their normal health services. All this means more unsafe births, more untreated diabetes or heart diseases, and more children missing vaccination, however, WHO is monitoring the situation and working to protect health and deliver essential health services to flood-hit areas to reduce the impact of this impending crisis.

Pakistan along with its partnering nations and global charity organizations is relentlessly battling the worst effects of recent monsoon floods which badly destroyed the basic infrastructures including health facilities and road links, that temporarily blocked the movements of people and goods between different parts of the country, hindering the rescue and relief activities, restricting the transportation of medicines, and halted vaccination/immunization drive in flood-hit areas. Although, torrential rains have stopped, and flood water is being drained out of cities and towns but the stagnant water is currently standing on lower terrains which provides breed for mosquitoes and dangerous germs that cause malaria, dengue fever, and other infectious diseases including COVID-19 infection in certain areas. The flood-hit people are temporarily residing in relief camps and are deprived of basic necessities including pure drinking water, medicines, and a healthy environment, and face hunger and malnutrition. Accoridng to reports, hundreds of thousands of breastfeeding mothers are unable to feed their children due to scarcity of food while half a million pregnant women are battling with worst effects of displacement, malnutrition, and lack of basic health and maternity facilities in the relief camps and flood-hit rural areas.

Presently, a sharp rise in the cases of dengue fever, malaria, and stomach diseases had been witnessed in flood-affected areas in recent days. The government has mobilized significant resources to overcome the newest challenge by establishing dedicated hospitals for infectious diseases, decreasing the test fee for dengue fever, and clamping down on hoarders, profiteers, and black marketers involved in hoarding and black marketing of essential medicines. The recent floods had damaged nearly 2,000 health facilities in Sindh, Balochistan, and Southern Punjab which is extremely resisting the government efforts to tackle the looming epidemic in calamity-hit regions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has continuously alarmed the Pakistani authorities and the world about the impending epidemic, however, a vicious health disaster has broken out in the flood-hit areas in the country. Although, our valiant armed forces and civilian administration are already battling the situation yet these efforts need more concentration and liaison with the WHO and the global community to overcome the epidemic at its early stage.