As Pakistan Flood Waters Rise, A Second Wave of Death from Disease is Feared

The UN’s top humanitarian official John Holmes is interviewed on PBS Newshour about the Pakistan Floods.”The scale of this we are only beginning to understand now”



As Holmes said, the death toll is relatively low right now, but it will not stay that way unless humanitarian relief is provisioned quickly to the affected populations. The biggest fear is that water born diseases, like acute diarrhea, will take hold as people are forced to drink contaminated water.  From IRIN

The floods, which the government says have affected 14 million people and killed 1,600, most of them in KP, have drastically worsened the situation. Wells, streams and springs have been contaminated, as has ground water. People are forced to drink from stagnant pools, contaminated by human waste and dead animals.

Aid workers are warning of illness and deaths from water-borne diseases, which are expected to increase rapidly.

“There could be a second wave of deaths due to water-borne diseases if we don’t act fast enough to provide safe drinking water,” Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan, told IRIN. He said over one million people were in need of clean water and 430,000 water purification tablets had been distributed so far.

Nazahat Nigar, a private doctor in Lahore, told IRIN by phone: “Flood waters cause the sewage, industrial waste, cattle and human excrement to mix with clean water. There is a danger of the spread of cholera, hepatitis, typhoid, skin diseases and allergies in the flood-affected areas, and malaria may also hit flood victims. The deaths caused by these diseases will outnumber the deaths caused by flooding, I fear.”



Upstream, the Dawn is reporting flood surges, meaning more breaches are on their way to some of the worst affected regions. Meanwhile, it is worth noting that the international response so far has been a fraction of the response of the Haiti earthquake. From CARE’

The number of people affected is now more than that affected by the 2004 South Asia tsunami, the 2005 South Asia earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined. Yet the funding received so far is nowhere near the levels for those emergencies. To date, just US$58 million has been contributed to UN and international aid agencies for the flood response. In comparison, by the second week of the Haiti earthquake, US$241 million had been raised.

“This is a difficult emergency to raise funds for. There is still a level of donor fatigue from the Haiti earthquake, ongoing mass floods aren’t as instantly dramatic as an earthquake, and 14 million people affected is a huge number for private donors to comprehend,” said Waleed Rauf, CARE’s Country Director in Pakistan. “The death toll is thankfully much lower than Haiti, but there are more people affected and the damage to infrastructure is just as catastrophic. But to date less than one-quarter of the funds have been donated compared to the Haiti response. Millions need help, but we’re working with one hand tied behind our backs unless funding increases.”