KARACHI: Presenting a bleak picture of areas hit by devastating floods over a month ago, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho at a press conference held at the EPI Hall on Tuesday indicated that there was no improvement in the situation yet and the government faced challenges at multiple levels.

“Sindh faces one of the worst emergencies in its history. Unfortunately, most hospitals are overburdened with internally displaced persons and almost every outpatient department is functioning at over 100 per cent capacity,” she said at a media briefing.

According to her, contaminated water and food insecurity triggered by floods have aggravated the problem of malnutrition in women and children in Sindh.

“Malnutrition is common as well as septicemia, inflammation of the brain due to malaria and meningitis, etc. We are also seeing an increase in cases of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases with the onset of winter.”

She pointed out that health facilities extensively damaged in the floods were still non-functional.

“The equipment within these facilities has also been damaged. Hence, we are carrying out a survey in areas where the water is receding and what can be salvaged and what needs to be restored and rebuilt.”

About international donation, the minister said the money once received would be utilised for IDPs’ rehabilitation, reconstruction of the infrastructure lost in the floods and other relief activities.

Responding to a question about government relief measures taken so far, Dr Pechuho said 7.4 million people were displaced in Sindh and the health department had managed to treat 3.9m to date. Extra beds and paediatric units were being established to accommodate an increasing number of patients.

“More focus is now being given to fumigation drives as standing water has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The shortage of lady health workers and women doctors is being addressed by engaging postgraduate students from unaffected areas.”

Replying to a question about the government’s food security plans, she said unfortunately it couldn’t materialise its plan to import wheat from Ukraine and that there had been an increase in wheat prices internationally.

“There will be a shortage of wheat in Karachi as well in the coming months. The government is providing seeds to farmers and surveying the areas where crops could be grown.”

Rehabilitation of IDPs, she said, might take three months. “But, this is simply an estimate and our efforts are very much dependent on how fast the water recedes.”

The minister appreciated the services of the mother-and-child healthcare unit built last year in Nawabshah, which was now being utilised for treatment of mothers and children affected by the floods.

“We are also giving mental health due attention and plan to open a unit at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre soon where psychiatrists and psychologists would be conducting patient counselling sessions at tertiary care hospitals of the province via tele-health.”

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2022

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