Disease, malnutrition threaten to raise Pakistan flood toll: UN

A representative image of displaced people living in makeshift tents without mosquito protection. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Water-borne diseases and malnutrition that are sweeping large parts of Pakistan after record monsoon floods threaten to be more deadly than the initial floods, UN officials warned on Wednesday. What did

Unusual monsoon rains in Pakistan have flooded a third of the country – an area the size of Great Britain – and killed nearly 1,600 people, according to the latest government figures.

More than seven million people have been displaced, many living in makeshift tents without mosquito protection, and often with little access to clean drinking water or washing facilities.

UN humanitarian coordinator Julian Harness said Pakistan was facing a “second disaster” due to diseases such as dengue, malaria, cholera and diarrhoea, as well as malnutrition.

Addressing a press conference in the capital Islamabad, he said, “My personal concern is that water-borne diseases, deaths due to malnutrition will be more than what we have seen so far.”

“This is a serious but realistic understanding.”

About 33 million people were affected by the floods, which destroyed nearly two million homes and business premises, washed away 7,000 kilometers (4,300 mi) of roads and collapsed 500 bridges.

‘Worried about thousands’

Part of the farmland – mostly in southern Sindh province – is still under water.

Dengue cases there have soared to more than 6,000 since the start of the year – half in September alone – and are already approaching the 2021 total.

But the devastation is so widespread and ongoing — some communities are still cut off — that the full picture of the tragedy has yet to emerge.

UNICEF’s head of field operations, Scott Hollery, said that 500 children died as a direct result of the floods.

“We’re not worried about the hundreds. We’re worried about the thousands,” he said of the health crisis.

“Many of them we will probably never know, they will not be counted.”

The United Nations has already received pledges exceeding its initial campaign to raise $160 million for flood relief, but now plans to increase that goal.

“The absolute priority is to address the health crisis currently affecting the flood-affected districts,” Harness said.

Pakistan has already been hit by severe weather once this year, with severe heat waves scorching the country in the spring.

Scientists have linked both events to human-caused climate change.

The South Asian country – with a population of more than 220 million – is responsible for less than 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

But it is ranked eighth on a list compiled by the non-governmental organization German Watch of being most vulnerable to extreme weather due to climate change.

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