Pakistan: WHO warns of significant health risks from ongoing flooding

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More than 33 million people, and three quarters of all districts, have been affected by the disaster, which was caused by the monsoon rains.

At least 1,000 people have been killed and 1,500 injured, the WHO said, citing national health authorities. More than 161,000 others are now in camps.

The government has declared a state of emergency and the UN has issued a $160 million appeal for the country.

Delivering life-saving supplies

All over Pakistan, some 888 health institutions are damaged, of which 180 are completely damaged. Millions have no access to health care and medical treatment.

“WHO has launched an immediate response to treat the injured, provide life-saving supplies to health facilities, support mobile health teams and prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” said Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

The UN agency and partners conducted a preliminary assessment that showed that the current devastation is much more severe than previous floods, including those that devastated the country in 2010.

Guarantee access to services

The crisis has further exacerbated disease outbreaks, including: acute watery diarrhea, dengue fever, malaria, polio and COVID-19particularly in camps and where water and sanitation facilities have been damaged.

Pakistan had already registered 4,531 cases of measles and 15 cases of wild polio virus this year, even before the heavy rainfall and flooding. A nationwide polio campaign has been disrupted in the affected areas.

“WHO is working with health authorities to respond quickly and effectively on the ground. Our main priorities now are: provide rapid access to essential health services to empower the population affected by floods and expanding disease surveillance, prevention and control of outbreaksand ensure robust coordination of health clusters,” said Dr. Palitha Mahipala, WHO Representative in Pakistan.

Floods can worsen

With the floods expected to worsen in the coming days, the WHO is immediately focusing on these priorities.

The Pakistani government is leading the national response and setting up control rooms and medical camps at the provincial and district levels.

The authorities are also organizing air evacuation operations and holding health awareness sessions on water- and vector-borne diseases, as well as other infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

The WHO is working with the Ministry of Health to increase surveillance of acute watery diarrhea, cholera and other communicable diseases to avoid further spread. The agency also supplies essential drugs and medical supplies to functional health facilities that treat affected communities.

Expansion of disease surveillance

Prior to the floods, WHO and partners had launched cholera vaccinations in response to the already existing outbreak.

Pakistan is also one of the two remaining polio-endemic countries in the world, and teams in the affected areas are expanding surveillance for both polio and other diseases. In addition, polio workers are now working closely with authorities to support relief efforts, especially in the worst affected areas.

The WHO has also diverted mobile medical camps to affected districts, supplied more than 1.7 million aquatic labs to ensure people have access to clean water, and provided sample collection kits for early detection of infectious diseases.



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