Pakistan: Children suffering fear, illness
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
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.
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