Flood Disaster “the most challenging any country has faced in recent years...” says UN humaniratian chief
In a recent statement appealing for more aid to Pakistan, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said: “While the death toll may be much lower than in some major disasters, taking together the vast geographical area affected, the numbers of people requiring assistance and the access difficulties currently affecting operations in many parts of the country, it is clear that this disaster is one of the most challenging that any country has faced in recent years."
Thousands of people are camped out on roads, bridges and railway tracks - any dry ground they could find - often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and perhaps a plastic sheet to keep off the rain. ''I have no utensils. I have no food for my children. I have no money,'' said survivor, sitting on a rain-soaked road in Sukkur along with hundreds of other people. ''We were able to escape the floodwaters, but hunger may kill us.''
UM Healthcare Trust together with Shine Humanity has been on the ground since August 4th, and is running medical relief camps as well as providing clean drinking water, water treatment solutions, baby formula, and other dry foodstuffs. The team of seven medical staff and 15 volunteers have seen over 1,700 patients. Patients were suffering from various waterborne diseases have been treated. Children are suffering from diarrhoea and gastroenteritis. Skin diseases and other ailments are spreading in the flood-hit areas primarily due to the consumption of contaminated water.
In a recent report, Dr. Qasim Nasr, Medical Officer Incharge, UM Healthcare Trust said: “UM Healthcare partnered with Disaster Management Centre (DMC) Abbottabad, Disaster Relief by Irish and Pakistanis (DRIP), and Shine Humanity a combined medical camp in Nowshera. This camp was aimed at vaccinating and treating those flood affectees who had not been targeted by a medical team before. The team brought along an ambulance filled with medicines, food items, vaccines, bottled water and hygiene items, and the vaccines (against Tetanus and Typhoid) were generously donated. This time, due to the rain, we set up our armamentarium inside the school premises and vaccinated a total of 85 patients in about 2 hours.
“At the Church we were informed about another minority community nearby in Loya Wera, which had some flood affected families living that had not received vaccinations. We moved on to this locality after we had completed the vaccination campaign at Christ Church. Loya Wera is a small gated community home to about 20 Hindu families, situated in the middle of a busy market, a couple of kilometers away from Christ Church. Upon arrival we were welcomed by the community elders. We started right away by registering and vaccinating the flood affected people living there with the host families, and over 40 people including children were vaccinated there.
“Our next stop was Government Primary School No. 2, in Badrashi village which lies on the outskirts of Nowshera. Here, we were surprised to know that for more than ten days there had been no medical camp. Thus there were more ill people at this camp than we have seen at others. There had been no food support for the camp since morning and they had been making arrangements through community support. We distributed as many food items, water, formula milk and ration as we had with us among the affectees.
“It appears that most residents are constantly exposed to flood water even now and are exposed to greater amounts of infectious diseases from the cramped living conditions in relief camps. We observed this in our camp, as the major bulk of disease was diarrheal and respiratory illnesses. We counseled residents about better hygiene practices and the need for frequent hand washing as a precaution against acquiring or transmitting diseases.
There are still a lot of communities that haven’t received adequate support on medical or food side and we are working with our partners to target as many of them as possible.”
In an e-mail, Todd Shea, COO of Shine Humanity added: “These floodwaters are so nasty that my only pair of shoes has finally met its match and my feet are itching like crazy from being knee deep in mud most of today- But I will say this: I haven't seen the international agencies in the areas I've worked I'm sure they are on the way and gearing up for a massive effort, but I haven't seen it yet, nor have any of the people that our three medical teams and field partners (UM Healthcare) are serving because they often tell us they haven't recieved much of anything from anyone other than a few small organizations.”
The Challenge Ahead
There is a desperate need to send more well-equipped medical teams to the flood-hit areas to prevent the further spread of disease. The victims of the flood have lost everything and cannot cope with potential epidemics on their own. The delivery of vaccines and medicine to all the flood-affected areas, especially in remote parts, is a priority. It must be ensured that the medicine is not substandard or past the expiry date. Also water treatment solutions are critical and make it suitable for drinking. Proper sanitation facilities for the flood-affected people are also vital.
How you can help
We are renewing our appeal for funds to facilitate the purchase of food; provide clean drinking water; tents and plastic sheeting; and other dry food items. Please donate generously - these items are available in the open market and we need your help to scale up the distribution of humanitarian assistance. We also need more doctor and medical teams on the ground to serve the most hard to serve areas.
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