Pakistan floods claim 1,300 lives as officials step up efforts to contain water-borne diseases

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Nearly 1,300 people have been killed so far due to unprecedented floods triggered by record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in Pakistan’s northern mountains, as authorities stepped up efforts to contain the spread of water-borne diseases like diarrhoea and malaria in the affected areas.

The cataclysmic floods have inundated a third of the country, displaced more than 33 million and has caused economic damages to the tune of USD 12.5 billion to Pakistan’s already teetering economy.

At least 26 people were killed in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll to 1,290 as on Sunday, while another 12,588 were injured, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

The NDMA said that 492 people have died in Sindh, followed by 286 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, 259 in Balochistan, 188 in Punjab, 42 in Kashmir, 22 in Gilgit-Baltistan and one in Islamabad.

Floods have also destroyed about 5,563 kms of roads and 243 bridges, while 1,468,019 houses were partially or fully damaged and 736,459 livestock killed, it said.

Sindh province is still facing the brunt as officials made a cut in the embankment of swelled Manchar lake to save Sehwan and Bhan Saeedabad towns from getting inundated, according to Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon.

“It was a difficult decision [but] it had to be taken,” he said.

The minister said that approximately 125,000 people in five union councils would be affected by the water released through this cut.

Memon also said over 672,000 people were in the relief camps where the government was providing food and medicines to the affected.

Meanwhile, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho told DawnNews TV that at least 47,000 pregnant women were in shelter camps in the province, adding that thousands have contracted various water-borne diseases due to the floods.

“More than 134,000 cases of diarrhoea and 44,000 cases of malaria have been reported in the province,” she added.

Dr Pechuho said over 100,000 skin-related, 101 snake bites and 500 dog bites have been reported so far among flood affectees.

She said other cases, including respiratory diseases, were on the rise in Sindh province

On August 30, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a sexual and reproductive health agency, said that at least 650,000 pregnant women, of whom 73,000 were expected to deliver this month across the country, in the flood-affected areas were in dire need of maternal health service.

ALSO READ | Biblical floods submerge Pakistan, overflowing Indus creates new lake

The government on August 25 had officially declared a “national emergency” in light of the rain-induced floods which have killed more than 1,200 people.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Balochistan province’s Kacchi areas on a day-long trip, where he was briefed on the situation.

Sharif announced a PKRs 5 million relief grant for labourers who are helping in the evacuation process, and another grant of PKRs 1 million for the staff working for the restoration of gas pipelines.

The Prime Minister in a tweet on Sunday asked the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and other global agencies to support Pakistan as climate-induced calamities had adversely affected the country’s children.

“As Pakistan battles one of the worst climate-induced calamities, among the most adversely affected are children. With over 400 dead, they make up one third of the overall death toll. Now they are at even greater risk of water-borne diseases. UNICEF & other global agencies should help,” Sharif tweeted.

International aid was trickling in, and the third flight from Qatar landed at the Karachi airport, carrying relief materials and medical items, while the United States Agency for International Development said it was deploying a disaster assistance response team to lead a humanitarian response.

“This elite team is assessing damage, identifying priority needs and coordinating with humanitarian partners in the country,” USAID tweeted.

Pakistan’s farmers are still counting their losses from the devastating floods that have put a third of the country under water, and wiped-out acres of fertile agricultural land.

Farmers rue that the natural calamity has put the country back by 50 years.

UN chief Antonio Guterres will arrive in Pakistan on September 9 for a solidarity visit and inspect flood-hit regions, after a USD 160 million emergency plan was launched by the UN and the Pakistan government to provide relief to millions of people living in flood relief camps.

As the country was trying to combat the calamity, the Met Office has predicted more rains in the coming days.

ALSO READ | Why should melting Himalayas scare you? Look at Pakistan

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