KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is struggling to control outbreaks of dengue fever and other water-borne diseases, especially in the south of the country, authorities, the government and charities said on Monday setting up hundreds of medical camps across the country to treat patients in flood-ravaged areas.
Historic monsoon rains and melting glaciers in the northern mountains caused cataclysmic flooding, which killed at least 1,314 people and affected more than 35 million, according to data shared by the National Flood Response Coordination Center ( NFRCC). A third of the country is submerged and extreme weather, widely attributed to climate change, is expected to continue for the next few days.
In the southern province of Sindh, 511 people, including 219 children, have lost their lives, while thousands of people across the country are attacked by various vector and water-borne diseases, including diarrhoea, malaria, skin infections and dengue fever, according to doctors working in the field. .
Official data released by the Sindh government shows that the number of dengue fever cases rose from 361 in July to 1,336 in September, while 257 cases alone were reported in the first four days of September. The Sindh government has set up 110 medical camps and assigned 117 doctors and 277 paramedics, who have treated more than 785,000 patients in flood-affected areas since July.
“Mosquitoes are spreading rapidly in all flood affected areas in Sindh province resulting in high number of daily dengue fever cases,” Mehar Khursheed, spokesperson for Sindh health department, told Arab News. .
“Malaria cases are also increasing due to water contamination. Many places are still inaccessible to health teams and the true picture of diseases would not be known until the flood waters recede.
Khursheed said the government is planning aerial fogging of flood-affected areas to combat vector-borne diseases. “We are working on providing special aircraft for aerial misting as the situation regarding waterborne diseases was becoming dangerous,” she said.
According to a Sindh health department report, 94 people were diagnosed with dengue on Saturday, while 161 people were admitted to hospitals on Thursday and Friday.
Dr Omar Sultan, head of Jinnah Post-Graduate Medical Center (JPMC), the province’s largest public health facility, said about 50 people were currently admitted to four wards of the Karachi hospital.
“It’s three percent of patients, because 97% of patients are sent home by outpatient departments (OPDs),” Dr Sultan added.
Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said the provincial government was dealing with the diseases with the support of its international partners.
“Supplies of antibiotics are being procured and distributed and displaced people are being monitored to identify cases of respiratory problems, diarrhea, which are immediate concerns,” she told Arab News.
Dr Muhammad Anees, who runs a medical relief camp set up by Al-Mustafa Welfare Society in Karachi, said almost all of the flood victims, who took refuge in the southern port city, had some sort of illness. infectious.
“I examined over 250 people in two days, mostly diagnosed with gastric or skin problems, which were directly caused by the subsequent rains and floods in their hometowns,” Dr Anees told Arab News. , adding that most patients had rashes under their skin. knees from prolonged wandering in water.
“Waterborne diseases among flood victims are rampant. In a few cases, the skin was rusty enough to develop chlorides.
Teams of volunteer doctors have also set up camps in flooded areas of Punjab, with supplies of essential drugs to treat patients.
“Cholera and diarrhea are spreading rapidly in flood-affected districts of Punjab, where teams of doctors, volunteers and the provincial government are treating patients,” said Dr. Salman Haseeb, President of the Youth Association doctors, to Arab News.
Haseeb said their teams have set up at least 40 medical camps so far in Punjab and Sindh provinces to treat patients. “The situation in Sindh and Balochistan provinces is extremely dangerous as our teams are struggling to reach patients as almost all major roads have been washed away by floods,” he said.
He called on the provincial government of Balochistan and the Pakistani army to help them reach inaccessible areas of the southwestern province by helicopter. “If these diseases are not controlled in a timely manner through effective medical assistance, it could turn into another disaster,” Haseeb warned.
A number of charities and social organizations have also mobilized their resources and manpower to reach flood-affected areas for rescue and relief operations.
Dr. Zahid Latif, Secretary of Health Services of Al-Khidmat Foundation, said that vector-borne diseases were spreading in all flood-affected areas across Pakistan and that they had so far put in sets up more than 200 medical camps and treats approximately 70,000 patients for these illnesses.
More than 1,000 doctors and paramedics worked with the foundation in flood-hit districts of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces to assist those affected.
“The disease outbreak in all flood-affected districts is extremely serious and could turn into a health emergency if not handled properly within the next two weeks,” he warned, adding that the pregnant women and children were the most affected.
“We will distribute hygiene bags in the affected areas by next week containing soap, sanitary pads for women and other necessary items. We are also planning the psychosocial rehabilitation of the affected people with the help of our volunteers.