2nd wave of disaster in form of disease outbreaks: WHO

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ISLAMABAD: Warning that the ‘2nd wave of disaster’ has begun in the form of disease outbreaks in the flood-affected areas, World Health Organization’s representative in Pakistan Dr. Palitha Mahipala Saturday said they were anticipating 2.7 million Malaria cases in 32 districts flood-hit of Pakistan by January next year and urged international community to ‘do a lot more’ to save precious lives in Pakistan.

“As (WHO) Director General had warned earlier, the 2nd disaster in the shape of outbreaks of water and vector borne diseases has begun in the flood-hit areas of Pakistan. There are outbreaks of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) in 46 flood-affected districts, Malaria outbreaks are being reported from 32 districts and there are cholera, measles and dengue outbreaks among others, which can cause huge loss of lives if not paid immediate attention”, Dr. Palitha Mahipala told newsmen at a briefing at WHO Country Office in Islamabad.

Terming the approaching winder as the third major challenge in the flood-affected areas, Dr. Palitha Mahipala said combination of water and vector borne diseases and harsh winters could become extremely lethal for the millions of flood-affected people who are living along hundreds of kilometers of roads in Sindh and Balochistan and appealed the international community to ‘do more’ to save precious lives at the risk due to Pakistan floods.

He maintained that WHO has declared the Pakistan floods as the Grade 3 Emergency, the highest level, which means all three levels of the organization — the country and regional offices, as well as headquarters — are involved in the response and added that WHO has appealed for $81.5 million deal with disease outbreaks and to provide basic health services to the people at risk.

Speaking about Malaria, Dr. Palitha said 32 districts of Sindh and Balochistan were ‘worst-affected’ due to Malaria where thousands of cases were daily being reported and added that they were fearing 2 million Malaria cases by December and around 2.7 million cases by the end of January 2023 from these districts. “In order to prevent mortality due to Malaria, WHO is providing rapid diagnostic kits and anti-malarial medicines worth $2.5 million while technical support is also being provided to the federal and provincial governments to deal with Malaria outbreaks. As larvicidal preventive measures are not possible in flood-affected areas, prophylactic treatment and post-exposure treatments are being arranged to treat Malaria patients”, he maintained.

WHO is also going to recruit 107 additional technical personnel and staff in addition 96 people on ground to deal with the health emergency in Pakistan’s flood-hit areas, he informed adding that they have invited 14 leading technical experts including epidemiologists, vector-control experts and infectious diseases specialists among others to advise how to deal with outbreaks and save precious lives in the country. “Outbreaks of Acute Watery Diarrhea are being reported from 46 districts of Pakistan while dengue has emerged as another major public health challenge, especially in Karachi and some other districts of Sindh. Unfortunately, death reporting mechanism is not very strong so we don’t know the actual number of deaths but the situation is getting bad to worst in the affected districts”, he maintained.

Acknowledging the outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases including cholera and typhoid in the flood-affected areas, Dr. Palitha said malnutrition was another serious challenge for the health authorities as mal-nourished children could become easy prey to infectious diseases and added that special campaigns were being launched to vaccinate as much children as possible in the affected districts.

When asked how provincial governments of Sindh and Balochistan were responding to the disaster, he said: “They are doing good job but a lot needs to be done by the governments and the international community. The scale of disaster is huge and 2nd wave of disaster has begun in form of disease outbreaks. A lot of lives are at stake and if immediate steps are not taken, lives saved through early warning system and timely forecast of floods and rains can be lost due to outbreaks of diseases”.

Responding to a query regarding provision of clean drinking water to the affected people, he said WHO had provided 4 million aqua tablets that can make water germ free and suitable for drinking while they have established two filtration in Sindh, adding that they would provide1000 small filteration plants in the flood affected areas, of which 100 would be procured and installed very soon. He further informed that WHO has started working on the renovation of 78 health facilities in the flood affected areas, adding that WHO has pledged to renovate 200 of the most damaged health facilities in the flood affected areas. “As far medicines are concerned, WHO is going to supply medicines worth 9.873 million for people in flood affected areas, of which a large number of emergency medicines have already been provided to the federal and provincial governments in Pakistan”, he maintained.

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