Averting disease, food insecurity among priorities in flood-hit Pakistan, UN says

Health assessment being conducted in flood-affected Pakistan

23 September 2010 – United Nations agencies are working to prevent further health crises and ensure adequate food supplies among flood-hit communities in Pakistan, where the disaster has contaminated water sources and caused large-scale damage to crops and agricultural land.

“Increasing cases of communicable diseases, like diarrhoea and malaria, fears about children being malnourished, the massive disruption to healthcare, crop systems and rising food insecurity are the main health threats facing Pakistan’s flood-affected people,” said Guido Sabatinelli, Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) to Pakistan.

Some 20 million people have been affected by the floods, which began in late July, including 8 million needing direct life-saving assistance, according to WHO.

Nearly 6 million people have been treated for health conditions since the onset of the disaster. In addition, UN agencies and their partners have delivered over 1,000 tons of medicines, enough to treat more than 4.5 million people, and opened at least 40 centres to treat people suffering from diarrhoeal disease.

They have also provided emergency reproductive health services to almost 60,000 patients, including more than 1,200 women who have delivered babies, and immunized over 445,000 children against polio and 428,000 children against measles.

“The objective of WHO and our health partners in Pakistan is to reduce avoidable death and illness through a range of life-saving interventions for all people – men, women and children,” said Eric Laroche, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Action in Crises.

“While concentrating on the ongoing crisis, we are also in parallel working to rebuild a devastated health system and respond to the major life-threatening health risks, such as acute diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, malaria, measles, and maternal and neonatal illness and death,” added Dr. Laroche, who is visiting northern Pakistan today with colleagues from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Last week the UN and its partners launched their largest-ever natural disaster appeal, seeking more than $2 billion to provide assistance for up to 14 million people affected by the floods over a 12-month period.

The Pakistan Floods Emergency Response Plan seeks $200 million to fund 94 health sector projects run by WHO and its partners in the health cluster, such as opening more health outposts and service delivery points, restoring access to basic health care, treating injuries and chronic conditions and controlling disease outbreaks.

The plan also seeks $107 million to fund activities by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to help farmers affected by the floods, which have destroyed food stocks and killed more than a million heads of livestock.

The agency today welcomed a $16 million contribution from the United States towards these efforts. The funds will be used to support wheat planting, prevent further livestock losses and de-silt irrigation systems in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one of the hardest-hit provinces.

The donation will also fund cash-for-work projects and provide women farmers with much-needed vegetable seeds to boost family nutrition, the agency said in a news release.


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