Pakistani health officials are warning of a looming health crisis in the country after recent devastating floods. Thirty-three million people have been affected by the floods, which have left nearly 1,500 dead since mid-June.
As rescue and evacuation efforts continue in parts of the country, health experts report an increase in dengue fever, malaria and severe gastric infections. Many displaced people live near stagnant water. Dengue is already claiming lives, and cases are increasing day by day.
About 3,830 cases of dengue fever have been reported by health officials in southern Sindh province, with at least nine deaths, but there are concerns this may be a conservative estimate.
“Overall, the situation in Sindh is very bad; we are organising medical camps all over the province. Most of the cases we are seeing now are of dengue patients followed closely by malaria,” Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association, told the BBC.
“The dengue burden is the same all over the province, increasing daily. When we checked with the laboratories, the suspected cases are around 80% of tests being done.”
Dr Shoro, who has been treating scores of dengue patients at Agha Khan hospital in Karachi, fears the situation will only worsen in the coming weeks.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern about the situation during his visit to flooded areas last week, where he met families now left with nothing.
He has described the world’s responsibility to helping Pakistan as a matter of justice, not generosity, but how would he get richer countries to listen, I asked him. Mr Guterres urged rich nations to help poor countries such as Pakistan to recover from tragedy.
“We need a world in which peace and security can only be guaranteed if you reduce inequalities,” he told me.
“Pakistan is not responsible for this crisis, this was a product of climate change, this was caused by those that are populating the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. The G20, the biggest economies in the world, they represent 80% of the emissions, Pakistan less than 1%.”
Officials now say it may take months before the water recedes in Sindh and life can resume. But many people here, like Muna, do not have that kind of time.
She and others whom I’ve met in the last few weeks have had their lives destroyed – and it is becoming painfully clear that there will be no quick remedies to help flood survivors.
It’s a desperate place to be. People in Pakistan are hoping the world hears of their anguish – and that those with the power to help them rebuild their lives will do so soon.