ISLAMABAD – Following the unprecedented floods caused by climate change, that have engulfed over 1,500 lives and submerged one-third of Pakistan, the World Health Organization expressed deep concerns about the potential for a “second disaster in Pakistan: a wave of diseases and deaths”.
In a statement, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “I am deeply concerned about the potential for a second disaster in Pakistan: a wave of diseases and deaths following this catastrophe linked to climate change that has severely impacted vital health systems leaving millions vulnerable.”
In the statement, the WHO chief also urged donors to continue to respond generously to “save lives and prevent more suffering”.
He maintained that water supply was disrupted, forcing people to drink unsafe water, which could spread cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases.
The WHO official said that stagnant water enabled mosquitoes to breed and spread
vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue. Health centres had been flooded, their supplies damaged and people had moved away from homes which made it harder for them to access their normal health services.
“All this means more unsafe births, more untreated diabetes or heart diseases, and more children missing vaccination, to name but a few of the impacts on health,” he said. “But if we act quickly to protect health and deliver essential health services, we can significantly reduce the impact of this impending crisis. “Health workers in Pakistan are stretched to the limit as they do all they can to deliver critical services amid the destruction. Nearly 2,000 health facilities have been fully or partially damaged,” he maintained.
The Sindh health department, meanwhile, said a total of 2.5 million patients had been treated at different medical camps across the province from July 1 to date. As many as 594,241 patients were treated for skin-related diseases, followed by diarrhoea (534,800), malaria (10,702), dengue (1,401), and other diseases (120,745,1), stated a report by the Sindh Directorate General Health Services.
The report also showed that 90,398 patients were treated during the last 24 hours, of which 17,919 had diarrhoea, 19,746 had skin-related diseases, 695 had malaria and 388 had dengue. Around 92,797 citizens were treated in the province on September 15.
Speaking to private TV channel, Dadu District Health Officer (DHO) Dr Muhammad Ali Samejo said different diseases, mainly gastro and malaria, were being reported among the district’s flood-hit people.
Dr Irshad Memon, an officer at a medical camp in Dadu, said at least 18,289 pregnant women had been screened from Aug 25 to Sep 17.
Dr Karim Mirani, who works for Dadu Civil Hospital, told TV cannel that the hospital had been flooded with patients due to rampant disease spread. “We are accommodating four to five children on a single bed due to the huge influx of patients,” he said. Floods from record monsoon rains and glacial melt in the mountainous north have affected 33 million people and killed more than 1,540 since June 14, washing away homes, roads, railways, livestock and crops, in damage estimated at $30 billion.
Both the government and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have blamed climate change for the extreme weather that led to the flooding, which submerged nearly a third of the country.