Health needs of flood-hit communities in Pakistan remain high – UN

30 August 2010

Providing health services to millions of people affected by the massive flooding in Pakistan remains a priority for humanitarian agencies, as a large numbers of those affected by the disaster continue to seek treatment for diseases such as diarrhoea, skin infections, respiratory problems and malaria, the United Nations health agency says.

Medical needs have been rising even as assessments indicate that some 400 of the more than 1,000 health facilities in flood-affected districts have been damaged or destroyed by floodwater, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported in an update released yesterday.

According to the latest epidemiological data, some 3.7 million people are reported to have received some form of medical treatment between 29 July and 23 August. Of those, 500,000 were cases of acute diarrhoea, 517,000 involved acute respiratory infections, there were 693,000 cases of skin infections and 94,000 suspected cases of malaria.

The number of suspected malaria cases is rising in Balochistan and Sindh provinces, compared to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, according to WHO.

UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York that it could take months before the clinics and health centres, schools and other public infrastructure destroyed by the massive floods can be restored. Most of those affected are also not expected to regain their capacity to support themselves any time soon, Mr. Nesirky added.

In a related development, the heads of three UN agencies will separately visit Pakistan this week to review ongoing humanitarian work among flood-affected communities.

Those travelling to the country are Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UN Children Fund (UNICEF); Josette Sheeran, the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP); and Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

WFP reported that it has reached over 2.5 million of the flood-affected people with food rations during the past month. The agency will begin delivering 1,500 metric tons of rice per day this week, it added.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the $459 million response plan for Pakistan has now received $291 million in commitments and an additional $21 million in pledges.

The head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, has donated a $70,000 international leadership prize awarded to him to the Pakistan flood emergency response.

Mr. Steiner was awarded the 2010 Tällberg Foundation prize at a ceremony in Stockholm yesterday for “principled pragmatism” and “leadership that walks the talk”.

He said he had “been deeply touched not only by the scale of the disaster but also the extraordinary efforts of local communities and organizations in mobilizing relief efforts while support from the international community was being deployed.”

Mr. Steiner said will immediately transfer the funds to the Sarhad Rural Support Programme – a national non-governmental organization (NGO) which has mobilized flood relief and rehabilitation effort for the affected communities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.


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