Long-term disaster preparedness plan urged

Staff Reporter

Islamabad—Health experts on Sunday said that long-term disaster preparedness plans should be designed to protect the citizens from communicable diseases and avoid disease outbreak. According to them, due to displacement of large numbers of people and sudden crowds in camps, lack of safe water and sanitation facilities have adverse health impacts on the population affected which requires preventative interventions. They said communicable diseases are easily transmitted by use of unsafe water for drinking and sanitary purposes and deteriorated health conditions of the affected population. If proper interventions are not made on time, the communicable disease will increase rapidly and have a devastating impact on the already-affected community hit by disaster.
Medical expert Dr Wasim Khawaja from Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) said it should be the first priority to establish health facilities in the disaster-hit area to provide first aid and treat emergency cases.
He added the health personnel on site for the control of outbreak of communicable diseases should be knowing how to carry out primary investigation and then on the basis of that investigation confirm the presence of pathogens and then with the treatment and prevention procedures.
He said that for the prevention of communicable diseases after disaster, it is important to know the factors causing them, modes of transmission, management of the infectious diseases, and then different preventative interventions to control the spread of communicable diseases.
He said that if pathogens are already present in an area hit by a disaster, then the chances of disease caused by that pathogen is likely to occur because the conditions become ideal for transmission after the disaster because of the reduced vulnerability of the population affected.
Dr Khawaja added disasters may result in massive population displacement from one place to another which may lead to increase in transmission of disease. Migration of people and high population density in camps provide ideal conditions for the passage of communicable diseases, he added. He said the change in environment after disaster causes an increase in infectious diseases such as contamination of water after floods because of the cross connection between water and sewage lines. A senior medical practitioner Dr Sharif Astori from Federal Government Poly Clinic (FGPC) hospital said, diseases may carry from direct person-to-person contact, while water-borne diseases are spread by using the contaminated water like gastroenteritis, cholera, etc.

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