Pakistan: Children suffering fear, illness

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

  • life in tentsChildren recently moved from pre-fab houses in Balakot to tents.
  • Damage in BalakotFlood damage in Balakot.
  • Food distributionFood distribution in Pakistan.
  • Food distributionFood distribution in Pakistan.
  • log recoveryVillagers on the banks of a swollen river try to recover logs to rebuild their homes in Dhandai, Shangla.
  • log recovery2Villagers on the banks of a swollen river try to recover logs to rebuild their homes in Dhandai, Shangla.
  • carrying food up bankVillagers carry rations to their homes on the opposite side of the river through a makeshift foot bridge and a cable/pulley carriage. Before the flood, this river was only 4m wide.
  • crossing riverVillagers transport rations to their homes on the opposite side of the river through a makeshift foot bridge and a cable/pulley carriage. Before the flood, the river was only 4m wide at this point.
  • climbing embankmentVillagers made food bridges and ladders from salvaged metal electric poles and wood to get top their village, Ranolia, in lower Dubair. Most of this town has been wiped out by the floods.
  • Silk Road damagedThe famous Silk Road has vanished for about 1km where the town of Ranolia used to be. Large boulders and rocks and landslides have destroyed the marketplace and housing in Ranolia.
  • Silk Rd damaged 2The famous Silk Road has vanished for about 1km where the town of Ranolia used to be. Large boulders and rocks and landslides have destroyed the marketplace and housing in Ranolia.
  • sheltering under boulderDay labourer Sher Afzal, 42, takes a break with village boys under a large boulder that came down with the water. His children have been unable to sleep due to the noise of large downstream moving rocks and boulders and the sound of rushing water.
  • destroyed housesHouses destroyed in Ranolia due to massive landslides.
  • destroyed houses 2Houses destroyed in Ranolia due to massive landslides.
  • washingJamdad, aged 30 (background) washes himself and his children on the site of a mosque. A vehicle from the road landed on the mosque. He tries to sleep under the trees at night but his children are afraid.
  • makeshift bridgeHouses once surrounded this part of the stream which was only a metre wide. People used to walk over it. A metal and wood bridge has been setup over this now dangerous spot. It is occasionally submerged.
  • makeshift bridge 2Houses once surrounded this part of the stream which was only a metre wide. People used to walk over it. A metal and wood bridge has been setup over this now dangerous spot. It is occasionally submerged.
  • scared childrenThe children of labourer Sher Afzal are unable to sleep due to the noise of large downstream moving rocks and boulders and the sound of rushing water.
  • scared children 2Sher Afzal aged 42, a day labourer, sits with his children who have been unable to sleep due to the noise of large downstream moving rocks and boulders and the sound of rushing water.
  • people wading through waterPakistani people wade through flood waters.

As the ACT response in Pakistan reaches over 269,000 people, children remain at high risk of disease. Sources quoted in Pakistan media say six million children have been affected by the floods with 2.7m needing urgent, life-saving assistance. In addition, 3.5m are at high risk of illness like diarrhea and dysentery. Concerns about the spread of cholera have grown, particularly in areas where water is flowing only slowly.

ACT member Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan’s Dennis Joseph says 80 percent of patients at the mobile health unit in Balakot Tehsil, Mansehra District, are women and children. The most common diseases are diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, skin diseases and urinary tract infections. Poor weather and damp, humid conditions increase respiratory infections, particularly among malnourished children. 

Playtime dangerous for children
Children are also at risk of illness as they play and bathe in flood waters. In addition to providing consultations and free medicines, CWS-P/A health teams are conducting health education sessions on issues of waterborne diseases with emphasis on the importance of safe drinking water and good hygiene practices.

Malnutrition is also a major concern. Before the floods, 77 million Pakistanis had inadequate food. Half the child deaths in Pakistan could be attributed to poor nutrition according to 2008 reports by World Food Programme and UNICEF. With more than seventeen million acres of farmland submerged and acute food shortages throughout the country, the risk of malnutrition and death have increased dramatically. Children have immediate needs of food items that can provide sufficient calorie intake and nutritional value.

Children are also traumatised. Sher Afzal, a daily wage laborer, aged 42, did not, fortunately, lose his home in Kohistan. However, his family, especially his little children, have not been able to sleep due to the sound of water and large rocks moving downstream. Thousands of children like those of Sher Afzal have been scarred with the images of such widespread devastation combined with prolonged fear and uncertainty.

ACT members were on the ground providing health care and distributing food and other essential relief goods from the outset of the floods. In total, ACT members plan to reach at least 269,000 Pakistani people. ACT members responding to the floods are Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan, Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe and Norwegian Church Aid.