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Thousands of women and children prone to diseases in flooded Pakistan

Children and women are becoming more vulnerable as tens of thousands of people suffer from infectious and water-borne diseases in flood-hit Pakistan and the death toll surpassed 1,500, according to government data and UNICEF. As flood waters begin to recede, which may take two to six months, the regions have become infested with diseases including malaria, dengue fever, diarrhoea and skin problems, the southern Sindh provincial government said in a report.

“Stagnant water is giving rise to water-borne diseases, while millions of people are living under the open sky,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said in an address to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

A total of 2.3 million patients have been treated since July 1 in the field and mobile hospitals in the flooded region. Women and children – mostly malnourished and in poor health in rural regions – are particularly vulnerable.

The Sindh report said more than 90,000 people are treated daily in the province, which has been the hardest hit by the cataclysmic floods. It confirmed 588 malaria cases with another 10,604 suspected cases, in addition to the 17,977 diarrhoea and 20,064 skin disease cases reported.

Three other Pakistani provinces also reported tens of thousands of patients visiting make-shift health facilities in flood-ravaged areas, officials said. Acute respiratory problems, skin diseases such as scabies, eye infections and typhoid are the most common.

A government report in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province acknowledged the complaints, stating that providing medicines and supplies remained a challenge. A health emergency has been declared in the province, he noted.

Aid desperately needed

Record monsoon rains in the south- and southwest Pakistan and glacial melt in northern areas triggered the flooding that has affected nearly 33 million people in the country of 220 million, sweeping away homes, crops, bridges, roads and livestock and causing an estimated USD30 billion of damage.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are in dire need of food, shelter, clean drinking water, toilets and medicines. Many have been sleeping in the open by the side of elevated

“I have been in flood-affected areas for the past two days. The situation for families is beyond bleak, and the stories I heard paint a desperate picture. All of us on the ground see malnourished children battling diarrhoea and malaria, dengue fever, and many painful skin conditions” said Abdullah Fadil, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative in Pakistan.

The UNHCR said an estimated 16 million children have been affected, and at least 3.4 million girls and boys remain in need of immediate lifesaving support.

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