The United Nations health agency said today it is bracing itself for a humanitarian health crisis in north-west Pakistan as fighting between government forces and militants threatens to uproot a further 800,000 people taking the total number of displaced to well over a million.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has received over $514,000 from the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) to meet the health needs of almost 550,000 people who had already been displaced by violence and natural disasters in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) between August 2008 and March 2009 before the current counterinsurgency operation started two weeks ago.
The CERF money will support projects targeting the prevention and control of communicable diseases, the strengthening of health systems, and the provision of clean water and hygienic conditions.
The agency reported some 22 disease outbreaks of varying severity since August, including acute watery diarrhoea, bloody diarrhoea, measles, malaria, chicken pox and mumps. Fatalities related to waterborne diseases had also been recorded.
WHO also reported that over 4,000 of the 20,000 children under the age of five that they had surveyed in NWFP suffered from acute malnutrition.
Underfed children and women with low immunity are more likely to contract communicable diseases, especially in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and districts with compromised water and sanitation systems, WHO warned.
Meanwhile, a cargo jet charted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday delivered 120 tonnes of additional relief supplies for immediate distribution to those fleeing the fighting. The supplies were taken to the agency’s warehouse in Peshawar, and then distributed to various sites hosting displaced people.