Diseases add miseries to flood IDPs

    14 August, 2010
    SAMAA News

    NOWSHEHRA: Hundreds of flood victims queued for aid in the city of Nowshera on Saturday as UN officials confirmed that cases of cholera had surfaced in flood-ravaged Pakistan.

    The announcement only added to the misery of the 20 (m) million people, the government estimates have been made homeless by the disaster.

    Some of the internally displaced waited in lines, while officials checked their identification before distributing aid in Nowshera.

    One of the flood victims said he received oil, sugar, rice and dates while another complained of people being turned away empty handed as they did not have the correct documentation.

    The crisis has battered Pakistan's economy and undermined its political stability at a time when the United States needs its steadfast cooperation against Islamist extremism.

    The UN has appealed for an initial 460 (m) million to provide relief to Pakistan but has said the country will need (b) billions to rebuild once the floodwaters recede.

    The floods have killed about 1,500 people, and aid workers have warned that diseases could see the toll rise.

    One case of cholera was confirmed in Mingora, the main town in the northwest's Swat Valley, a UN spokesman said on Saturday.

    But other cases were suspected, and aid workers are now responding to all those exhibiting acute watery diarrhoea as if it is cholera.

    Mumtaz Khan, a doctor for Ummah Welfare Organisation in Nowshera, said they had not treated any patients with cholera like symptoms.

    'We are treating patients with scabies, gastritis, malaria and a lot of people here are suffering from skin infections and our institute is providing them with medicine,' he added.

    Cholera can lead to severe dehydration and death without prompt treatment, and containing cholera outbreaks is considered a high priority following floods.

    Speaking in Islamabad, Guido Sabatinelli, a representative from the World Health Organisation, said that there had not yet been any 'sustained transmission' of the disease.

    'We are deploying and establishing an appropriate centre and we are also deploying the kits and equipment that are necessary to deal with the situation. Very important is also the surveillance, so detect the cases when they occur so that we can act immediately and stop any further spread,' Sabatinelli said.

    The Pakistani crisis began in late July, when unusually heavy monsoon rains tore through the country from its mountainous northwest.

    Hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed. Agriculture has been severely hit, with an estimated 1.7 (m) million acres (nearly 700,000 hectares) of farmland wiped out.

    UN officials, citing government figures, previously said approximately 14 (m) million Pakistanis were directly or indirectly affected.

    But in a televised address to the nation on Saturday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said 20 (m) million were now homeless.

    He did not elaborate, and it was unclear how many of those people were briefly forced to leave their homes

    and how many had lost their houses altogether.

    Authorities have been trying to evacuate or warn people in Jacobabad, Hyderabad, Thatta, Ghotki, Larkana and other areas in Sindh province that have so far been spared floods.

    Ghulam Sarwar said he, his wife and eight children had already fled the town of Thal because of flooding.

    Overnight, they had to get out of Jacobabad after the fresh warnings. Now they wait in a small tent relief camp on the edge of the city of Sukkur.

    'Our belongings are gone and we don't have any food. Our children are starving,' added Sarwar.

    The Pakistani government's reputation - already shaky to begin with - has suffered during the crisis, especially after the president decided to visit Europe as the crisis was unfolding.

    President Asif Ali Zardari has tried to make up for not returning home sooner by meeting with flood victims in hard-hit areas in recent days.

    Aid experts say the pace of international aid coming in to Pakistan has been relatively slow compared to other major crises.

    They say the slow onset of the disaster, the global economic downturn and the perception of Pakistani

    corruption might all be factors.

    The United States has donated the most to the relief effort, at least 70 (m) million, and has sent military helicopters to rescue stranded people and drop off food and water.

    Washington hopes the assistance will help improve its image in the country - however marginally - as it seeks its support in the battle against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. AGENCIES

    Orignal article can be viewed here.