At least nine more people have died from water-borne diseases in flood-hit areas of Pakistan, officials said on Tuesday, warning they risked losing control of the spread of infections in a crisis that the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) described as “beyond bleak”.
An intense and long monsoon dumped around three times as much rain on Pakistan than on average in recent weeks, causing major flooding which killed 1,559 people, including 551 children and 318 women, according to the disaster management agency.
This figure does not include those killed by disease in the aftermath.
Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the floods are living in the open and as flood waters spread over hundreds of kilometres start to recede, which officials say may take two to six months, stagnant waters have led to diseases like malaria, dengue fever, skin and eye infections and acute diarrhoea.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the surge in diseases has the potential for a “second disaster”.
In Sindh, the region worst hit by the floods, the provincial government said nine people died of gastroenteritis, acute diarrhoea and suspected malaria on Monday, bringing the total number of deaths from diseases to 318 since July 1.
Over 2.7 million people have been treated for water-borne diseases at makeshift or mobile hospitals set up in flood-hit regions since July 1, it said, with 72,000 people treated at these facilities on Monday alone.
Sindh govt urges people to exercise caution
In a video message earlier today, Sindh Health Minister Azra Pechuho urged people to adopt safety measures against vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue as the death toll from catastrophic floods across the country neared 1,600.
“The government is doing anti-dengue sprays across the province but there are some precautions that people need to take at home as well,” she said in a video message.
“Apply mosquito repellant lotions on your body. Put mosquito coils on the entrance of the house at dawn and dusk. Don’t keep water open, make sure you cover it where it is in utensils or in buckets. Spray your houses,” Pechuho recommended.
She said that in case of fever, paracetamol and panadol should be consumed. In case of a low platelet count, go to a hospital immediately, the minister pointed out.
Pechuho added that a 24/7 emergency helpline (021- 99223374) has been launched by the Sindh government to cater to internally displaced persons and those affected by the floods.
Meanwhile, at a press conference later in the day, Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said that Sindh saw a peak of 426 dengue cases on September 15.
“The health department and administration together worked and as a result, 221 cases were reported in the last 24 hours,” he revealed, adding that the caseload has effectively halved.
Regarding malaria, Wahab said that Sindh has reported 148,589 cases of the disease since the floods.
ADB announces ‘significant’ relief, rehabilitation package for flood-hit Pakistan
Earlier today, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said that it was working “quickly” to provide a “significant” relief and rehabilitation package following catastrophic floods in the country.
In a statement, the ADB said that the package is designed to “support people, livelihoods, and infrastructure immediately and in the long-term”.
For the short and medium-term, the bank said it would use ongoing projects to repair damaged infrastructure, including roads and irrigation infrastructure, and to support the development and financial stability of the agriculture sector to boost food security.
“We’re also processing countercyclical support to help the poor and vulnerable, especially women and children, weather the impacts of food prices and other external shocks,” the ADB said.
Long-term, we’ll prioritise projects that support post-flood reconstruction and strengthen climate and disaster resilience, it added.
“We will provide more details of our new assistance package when it is finalised. We will work closely with the government and other international agencies to help rebuild the lives and livelihoods of the more than 33 million people affected by the disaster,” the ADB concluded, adding that it stood with the people of the country.
The announcement came as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif arrived in New York to participate in the United Nations General Assembly where he is expected to highlight Pakistan’s climate catastrophe.
“Reached NY a few hours ago to tell Pakistan’s story to the world, a story of deep anguish and pain arising out of a massive human tragedy caused by floods. In my address at UNGA and bilateral meetings, I will present Pakistan’s case on issues that call for world’s immediate attention,” he said.
Ahsan urges nation to play its part
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal highlighted that two-thirds of the country had been affected by floods.
“Today, I want to appeal to those Pakistanis whose businesses are operating as per usual, whose crops are swaying in the fields, those who are sleeping peacefully in their beds at night with the fan or air conditioner on […] hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sister have been displaced because floods have turned the entire district into a sea.”
Today, they are seeking refuge along the side of the road, the minister said as he highlighted the losses due to the floods. Iqbal said the nation should play their part in helping the country combat this crisis, adding that this should continue until the last displaced Pakistani returns home.
During the press conference, the minister also said that the government was working on introducing an “adopt a district programme” so that flood-affected areas could be provided support from areas that had been spared.
“We are sending requests to the provincial government for this programme,” he said as he called on areas spared by the floods in Punjab to lend their support to affected areas in Sindh and Balochistan.
Water levels in Sindh
Official in charge of the irrigation cell for Manchhar Lake, Sher Mohammad Mallah, told Dawn.com that the water level was at 120.4 feet reduced level.
He went on to say that the water in nine union councils of Sehwan had reduced by three feet, adding that there was at least five feet of water in the villages.
Dadu Deputy Commissioner Syed Murtaza Ali Shah said that the pressure on the bunds surrounding Johi, Mehar and Bhan Syedabad had alleviated but there was still 7-8 feet of water in some areas.
Senior journalist Hamid Mir visited the hometown of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and tweeted a video showing a flooded area with submerged electric poles poking out of the water.
“My boat touched the rooftops of many homes submerged by the water of Manchhar Lake,” the journalist said.
Over Rs25b distributed among flood victims, says minister
At a press conference later today, Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Shazia Marri said that the government has so far distributed over Rs25 billion among flood victims under the Benazir Income Support (BISP) programme.
“This time the cash dispersement has not been conducted via retail vendors. We have established special campsites in every district,” she said.
Marri pointed out that the reason for the setting up of these campsites was to ensure accountability in the distribution of money. “We have a zero-tolerance and no-nonsense policy over deductions.
“It is important to tell you that we are giving this amount to 10.21 million families, we ensure that any criminal element is caught. And this is a message to the grass-root level,” she added.