After Floods, Diseases Savage Pakistan Kids

    Wednesday, 18 August 2010

    CHARSADDA, Pakistan –- Pakistani children are bearing the brunt of the country’s worst humanitarian disaster as they lay helpless in makeshift tents, cut away from medical help and vulnerable to fatal diseases that are feared to ravage the Flood-ravaged country.

    “Who will treat her?” Bakhmina Said, the mother of one-year-old Naeema, who suffers a heart disease, told Reuters on Wednesday, 18 August.

    Said will never forget that day nearly three weeks ago when Pakistan was hit by the worst monsoon floods in decades.

    As floodwaters rushed into her mud-brick home, and with no chances of saving any of her belongings, Said only managed to grab the medical records of her daughter's heart condition, put them in a metal trunk and headed to high ground.

    “The doctors said she has a hole in the wall of her heart,” Said added.

    Today, Naeema sleeps on a mat in sweltering heat at a fly-infested camp, with no fan, no chance of seeing a cardiologist anytime soon.

    She is not alone.

    All across affected areas, with hundreds of villages marooned and highways and bridges cut in half by swollen rivers, medical supplies and treatment have no access to sick Pakistani children.

    Adding insult to an injury, the kids are in danger of catching fatal diseases as they remain in cramped, un-hygienic conditions.

    The United Nations has warned that up to six million children could be in danger of contracting deadly diseases carried through contaminated water and insects.

    Typhoid, hepatitis watery diarrhoea, endemic cholera and endemic upper respiratory infections are among a long list of growing risks.

    So far the biggest problem at the camps is scabies. Another constant worry is diarrhoea, of the biggest potential killers.

    The United Nations has reported the first case of cholera, but only a small fraction of the funds needed for initial relief has arrived.

    Pakistan's worst floods in decades have killed up to 1,600 people, made two million homeless, and disrupted the lives of at least a tenth of the 170 million population.

    Kids or Caretakers

    Among the ruins, the scene of young children watching out for younger siblings as parents contemplate how the family can etch out a living was a familiar one.

    In a nearby camp run by Islamic charity Ummah Welfare Trust, nine-year-old Sabah Gul appeared carrying her one-year-old brother over her shoulder as she attends a clinic with her younger sister.

    'My mother is here but I am taking care of my sister and brother,” Gul told Reuters.

    Checking her young brother, doctors said that he has not caught any diseases yet.

    But he was facing the risk of catching other potentially fatal diseases in such un-hygienic conditions, doctors told her.

    Exhausted as she is, Gul was fighting fatigue to concentrate as physicians examined her sister.

    “My father is a labourer. He is out looking for work,” she added.

    The charity treats 2000 cases, field coordinator Iftikhar Ahmed said.

    Securing clean water for people in the camp, the charity was able to afford meagre handouts of food supplies limited to rice.

    Albeit, young children were not the only group that needed help in flood-ravaged Pakistan where millions were displaced.

    UNICEF estimates that over 5,500 schools and 1,300 health centres have been either damaged or destroyed and that nearly 5,000 schools are now housing displaced families.

    Walking out for one and a half hours to the camp to get treatment for scabies, seventy-year-old Taja Abdul Sattar did not have many dreams for the future.

    'I just want a tent,' she said.

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