ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) has urged the government to announce a strategy to deal with a potential medical crisis and establish a panel of medical experts to formulate a national policy to avert epidemics in the wake of floods that have left most parts of the southern country submerged.

The demand came during a press conference held by PIMA Central General Secretary Prof Mohammad Tahir in the federal capital.

Prof Tahir suggested that the government should utilise its resources to establish field hospitals with essential treatment and prevention facilities for common diseases. He also suggested that control centres should be set up in every district, through which information could be exchanged with NGOs for coordinated efforts.

He said PIMA volunteers were working in south Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to meet the medical needs of people affected by floods.

“We have divided this relief work into two phases. In the first phase, mobile clinics and medical camps are in progress. In the second phase, we will treat patients in specialist hospitals for various diseases through the referral system.

“So far, 248 medical camps have been set up at over 50 locations where around 496 doctors and 744 paramedics have rendered their services,” the official said, adding that free treatment and medicines were provided to more than 74,727 patients.

“Now we have decided to extend these medical relief activities in view of the vast impact of the disaster. In the coming days, medical specialist camps will be organised in collaboration with the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) in the flood-hit areas.”

“Special mobile hospitals for women are being sent to the affected districts under the supervision of gynecologists, with the ultrasound facility,” he said.

Prof Tahir said the current challenge in flood-affected areas was the spread of waterborne diseases. With the passage of time, the risk of the outbreak of epidemic diseases in the affected regions was constantly increasing, he said, adding that the government had no strategy to overcome the situation.

“Through this press conference, we want to draw the attention of the government and other organisations to the possible medical crisis. Not only epidemics are breaking out in flood-affected areas, [but] cholera, diarrhoea, gastroenteritis and typhoid are becoming epidemic due to polluted water, while dengue and malaria are increasing due to prolonged standing water. These diseases can also lead to increased mortality in affected areas. The number of snake bite patients is also expected to rise. Skin diseases such as scabies and fungal infections are also common due to a lack of sanitation,” he said.

“Of all these, the most affected are infants, pregnant women and the elderly. The supply of milk and food can become more difficult for mothers and their babies, which will cause severe anaemia and weakness in both mother and baby. Older adults suffering from incurable or chronic diseases…may experience interruptions in their ongoing treatment and difficulties in providing their medicines. This wave of increase in deaths may be manifold compared to the current number of deaths if timely measures are not taken,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2022

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