Pakistani health officials have reported outbreaks of waterborne diseases in areas hit by recent floods, as authorities step up efforts to ensure clean drinking water is provided to hundreds of thousands of people who lost their homes in the disaster.
Diarrhea, skin diseases and eye infections are prevalent in relief camps set up by the government across the country. More than 90,000 cases of diarrhea have been reported in one of the hardest-hit Sindh provinces in the past 24 hours, according to a report by health officials on Thursday.
The latest development comes a day after the government and the World Health Organization raised concerns about the spread of waterborne diseases among flood victims.
Pakistan blames climate change for unusually early and heavy monsoon rains, which since June have caused flash floods that have killed nearly 1,200 people and affected 33 million. About a million homes were damaged or destroyed.
The flood waters continued to recede in most of the country, but many areas in the southern province of Sindh remained under water.
Nearly half a million people displaced by the floods live in relief camps. Dr Ezra Fazl Bichuhu, the provincial health minister, said that thousands of medical camps have been set up in Sindh in the flood-stricken areas to treat the victims. Mobile medical units have also been deployed.
The World Health Organization says it is increasing monitoring of acute diarrhoea, cholera and other infectious diseases and providing medical supplies to health facilities.
Doctors say they initially saw patients traumatized by the floods, but are now treating thousands of people suffering from diarrhea, skin infections and other water-borne illnesses. Many pregnant women living in flood-affected areas are also at risk.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, 6.4 million flood victims need humanitarian assistance. She said around 650,000 pregnant women in the flood-affected areas, of whom 73,000 are expected to give birth next month, are in need of maternal health services.