KARACHI: Conditions in the flood-affected areas are ripe for health crises that might increase human losses manifold if the government at the federal and provincial levels failed to frame and implement a well-coordinated strategy in time, warned experts at a presser held on Wednesday at Karachi Press Club.

The briefing was organised by the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (Pima) Karachi chapter.

Sharing his concerns over the devastating floods affecting over 100 districts in the country, Dr Abdullah Muttaqi heading Pima-Karachi said diseases, such as cholera, diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, typhoid, dengue and malaria were spreading fast in the flood-hit areas due to standing water, unhygienic conditions and polluted water.

“These diseases can also lead to increased mortality in affected areas. The number of snake-bite patients is also expected to rise. Skin diseases such as scabies and fungal infections are also common due to a lack of sanitation,” he explained.

According to him, there were still many flood-affected areas that couldn’t receive government attention.

“The government should establish a panel of medical experts to formulate a national policy to prevent epidemics. It should utilise its resources to establish field hospitals with essential treatment and prevention facilities for common diseases.”

Medical emergency

The speakers also shared the plight of pregnant women, infants and the elderly, who had been badly affected by the tragedy. Patients with chronic illnesses, they said, would likely experience interruption in their ongoing treatment.

“Our rural population, especially women and children, who have been suffering from malnutrition and anaemia for a long time, is vulnerable to disease more than ever. The situation warrants immediate steps and the government should declare a medical emergency,” said Dr Sohail Akhtar, warning that the humanitarian crisis could turn into a bigger challenge.

Replying to a question, he said the nationwide disaster demanded that the government, which had the system and infrastructure, to design a strategy and maximise its efforts by effectively engaging non-governmental organisations.

“The government should set up control centres in every district, through which information could be exchanged between various non-governmental organisations to avoid wastage of resources,” he said.

Earlier, speakers briefed journalists about the association’s relief efforts in the disaster-hit areas and said that the association was active in South Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it had set up medical camps and mobile units.

Pima’s relief work in charge Dr Rao Muhammad Naeem shared: “So far, 70 centres have been set up at 30 locations where around 150 doctors and paramedics are providing services. Free treatment and medicines have been provided to more than 15,000 patients at these camps.”

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2022

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