The monsoon season has been a nightmare for millions of Pakistanis as at least a quarter of Pakistan was under water, including a big part of Sindh and Balochistan. The rainy season, which was previously a relief after the scorching summer heat, led to people losing their lives, houses, crops, and livelihood.
According to Pakistan Today, Pakistan’s climate change minister Sherry Rehman blames climate change for this catastrophe. In a meeting with a US delegation, she sought assistance to restore areas affected by floods. She mentioned that the situation is worse than the historical 2020 floods as there is almost no dry land to provide relief supplies. While highlighting the intensity of the floods and the water-borne diseases that followed, she said:
“It is a national emergency. We are now heading towards a health emergency due to water-borne diseases. We need urgent relief funds to deal with this emerging crisis.”
The delegation expressed solidarity with Pakistanis and promised support for Pakistanis through this crisis.
Climate change is to blame for these floods. The record-breaking heat wave in the summer melted glaciers and led to the overflow of River Indus, one of the main rivers in Pakistan, hence causing massive floods. Other factors, such as lack of infrastructure, an unsuccessful warning system, and poor disaster management, worsened the crisis. Pakistan is facing an increase in diseases from the flood water.
Health officials of Pakistan report the massive outbreak of water-borne diseases, including diarrhea, dengue fever, malaria, and skin diseases. Many people are also experiencing respiratory issues. Additionally, almost 640,000 pregnant women are among those affected by floods.
Unfortunately for Pakistanis, it is not over yet. With a below-par drainage system, water-borne diseases are the havoc that awaits the people of Pakistan. WHO has also expressed concern regarding the spread of water-borne illnesses in flood-affected areas.
This disaster has already taken more than 1,300 lives, and more lives may be at risk due to diseases. Though many NGOs and the government are putting up medical camps to assist people, the sudden rise in diseases is becoming challenging.
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Types of Water Borne Diseases
As the water recedes, the pools and puddles of still water in the flooded areas are breeding grounds for mosquitos. Some mosquitos carry the parasites, and when the mosquito bites a person, it releases the parasite leading to malaria. Its symptoms range from mild to life-threatening.
Health professionals attending to those affected by floods, inform us that there is a substantial increase in malaria cases. A lot of people need immediate medical attention but are not able to because of fewer resources.
Similarly, dengue also occurs due to an infected mosquito that breeds in still and dirty water. Dengue fever can be lethal. Its symptoms include fever, aches, rash, nausea, and vomiting. Reports show growing dengue cases in flooded areas, especially in Karachi and Islamabad.
If you cannot reach the hospital, you can book a video consultation with an Online General Physician through oladoc.com.
Inaccessibility to clean water is leading to a spike in cases of diarrhea. Diarrhea causes watery stools and repeated bowel movements. According to the Sindh health minister, more than 134,000 cases reported since the flash floods in Sindh, including the metropolitan city of Karachi.
4. Skin diseases
Skin infections, bacterial or fungal, can occur due to constant contact with flood water. Health officials note a surge in skin diseases in those affected by the flood. Many people were in the water for fifteen to twenty days, and prolonged contact with contaminated water is harsh for the skin.
Other health issues that require immediate medical assistance are dog bites, respiratory health issues, eye infections, and cholera. Most flood survivors are also going through trauma and distress due to displacement and loss of livestock and crops.
Additionally, the population affected by floods has a high number of pregnant women, with many of them in the last trimester of pregnancy. It is also important to note that many government health facilities have destructed due to the floods. Almost 966 of these facilities have been partly destroyed, and some have been completely dismantled.
Can Water Borne Diseases Be Prevented?
You will be surprised to know that over 95% of water borne diseases are preventable! That means by following the necessary precautions you can effectively prtotect yourself against the threat posed by these harmful diseases.
Following are the preventive measures you should ensure to keep them at bay:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and at regular intervals, and practice good hygiene
- Drink and cook with clean water only
- Avoid coming into contact with unclean water as it can lead to skin and eye infections
- You should use liquid disinfectants such as Dettol to purify water for washing and bathing
- You should take vaccinations for preventable water borne diseases like Typhoid, Cholera, etc.
- Eat only clean and safe food and avoid using unrefrigerated or stale food that has not been stored properly.
Medical aid in flood-stricken areas of Pakistan
The government, NGOs, and other volunteers are setting up healthcare camps to provide medical aid to people in flood-affected areas. A National Flood Response and Coordination Center (NFRCC) has been set up to deal with this emergency. Even though many countries have come forward to support Pakistan at this difficult time, the government has also appealed to citizens of Pakistan to donate to people who just went through floods.