At least nine more people have died from water-borne diseases in flood-hit areas of Pakistan, officials said on Tuesday, warning they risked losing control of the spread of infections in a crisis that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) described as “beyond bleak”.
An intense and long monsoon dumped around three times as much rain on Pakistan than on average in recent weeks, causing major flooding which killed 1,559 people, including 551 children and 318 women, according to the disaster management agency.
This figure does not include those killed by disease in the aftermath.
Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the floods are living in the open and as flood waters spread over hundreds of kilometres start to recede, which officials say may take two to six months, stagnant waters have led to diseases like malaria, dengue fever, skin and eye infections and acute diarrhoea.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the surge in diseases has the potential for a “second disaster”.
In Sindh, the region worst hit by the floods, the provincial government said nine people died of gastroenteritis, acute diarrhoea and suspected malaria on Monday, bringing the total number of deaths from diseases to 318 since July 1.
Over 2.7 million people have been treated for water-borne diseases at makeshift or mobile hospitals set up in flood-hit regions since July 1, it said, with 72,000 people treated at these facilities on Monday alone.
In a video message earlier Tuesday, Sindh Health Minister Azra Pechuho urged people to adopt safety measures against vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue as the death toll from catastrophic floods across the country neared 1,600.
“The government is doing anti-dengue sprays across the province but there are some precautions that people need to take at home as well,” she said in a video message.
“Apply mosquito repellant lotions on your body. Put mosquito coils on the entrance of the house at dawn and dusk. Don’t keep water open, make sure you cover it where it is in utensils or in buckets. Spray your houses,” Pechuho recommended.
She said that in case of fever, paracetamol and panadol should be consumed. In case of a low platelet count, go to a hospital immediately, the minister pointed out.
Pechuho added that a 24/7 emergency helpline (021- 99223374) has been launched by the Sindh government to cater to internally displaced persons and those affected by the floods.