As rains continue to lash the flood-ravaged Sindh province in Pakistan, international humanitarian organization Oxfam warns of a severe risk of a public health crisis if clean water and sanitation is not urgently provided.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority, more than 100,000 adults and 500,000 children are at risk of contracting diseases if the international community does not provide immediate assistance.
Millions are living in extremely unhygienic conditions without access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation facilities, which, if not addressed, will lead to an outbreak of water-borne and vector-borne diseases like acute diarrhea, dengue, malaria, and hepatitis.
“These are exceptionally overwhelming circumstances that the people are facing, many of whom are still recovering from last year’s floods. People’s natural resilience to coping has eroded with one disaster after the other. Lack of food, water, shelter, and sanitation has further weakened their resistance to diseases. Women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities are now more vulnerable than ever,” said Neva Khan, Country Director of Oxfam in Pakistan.
Reportedly, out of the 5.3 million flood affected people, 32 percent are women. Of these more than 100,000 are pregnant and are highly susceptible to diseases. The need for clean water and sanitation is essential if the spread of diseases is to be controlled and a further disaster averted.
Sufficient resources to meet the critical need for water and sanitation are urgently required. “The clock is ticking and with each passing day human suffering is multiplying. Oxfam urges the donor community to gear up its response and support Pakistan generously in its time of need,” said Neva.
Stagnant flood water will become a breeding ground for many diseases in the days to come.
Humanitarian responses during the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the 2010 mega-floods indicate that the provision of water and sanitation is life-saving and can greatly reduce the occurrence of many diseases.
It is estimated that approximately 2.5 million people are in immediate need of clean water and sanitation. Less than a week into the crisis Oxfam and our partners have reached more than 20,000 people with clean water supplies, conducted hygiene promotion sessions to raise awareness with 5500 people, provided more than 6000 people with hygiene kits, and have assisted in the search and rescue of 42,544 people, of which 22,292 are women.