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Flood victims facing serious medical crisis: health experts

A serious medical crisis has already gripped the flood-affected areas of Pakistan

By M. Waqar Bhatti
September 10, 2022
File Photo
File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Deploring that people have started dying due to diseases in the flood-affected areas of Sindh, Balochistan and southern Punjab, health experts on Friday demanded the federal and provincial governments immediately impose a health emergency in those areas, establish field hospitals and urgently announce a strategy to deal with this potential health crisis.

“A serious medical crisis has already gripped the flood-affected areas of Pakistan, where the people have started dying due to diseases and hunger. The government should immediately declare a health emergency in those areas, set up field hospitals, establish a panel of medical experts to formulate a national policy for preventing these disease outbreaks,” Prof. Muhammad Tahir, Central General Secretary of Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), who along with his team returned from the flood-affected areas, told a news conference at a local hotel.

Accompanied by Dr Shabbir Ahmad, President PIMA Punjab, Dr Iftikhar Burney, General Secretary PIMA Punjab, and Dr Mumtaz Hussain, President PIMA Islamabad, Prof. Muhammad Tahir said infants and children had started dying due to malnutrition and water-borne diseases as well as vector-borne diseases, while adults were also vulnerable due to diseases, food shortages and absence of adequate medical care.

“The government should utilise its resources to establish field hospitals with essential treatment and prevention facilities for diseases, including diarrhea, malaria, dengue, chronic illnesses and mental health issues,” he said, adding that control centres under the government should be established in every district, so that information could be exchanged between various NGOs to avoid the wastage of facilities.

He maintained that Pakistan Islamic Medical Association committed to provide medical facilities in the flood-affected areas from day one and its volunteer doctors were serving in south Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through medical camps and mobile units to meet the medical needs of the people affected by floods and also striving to prevent spread of infectious diseases.

“PIMA has divided this relief work into two phases. In the first phase, mobile clinics and medical camps are being set up. In the second phase, we will treat patients in specialist hospitals for various diseases through the referral system,” he added.

Dr Iftikhar Burney from PIMA Punjab said the current challenge in the flood-affected areas is the spread of waterborne diseases, adding that with the passage of time, the risk of outbreak of epidemic diseases in the affected areas was constantly increasing.

“Unfortunately, the government has no strategy to overcome this situation. Outbreaks of cholera, diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, and typhoid are becoming very common due to polluted water, while dengue and malaria are increasing due to stagnant water. These diseases can also lead to increased mortality in the affected areas. The number of snake bite patients is also expected to rise,” Dr Burney warned.

“Through this press conference, we want to draw the attention of the government and other organisations to the possible medical crisis. Skin diseases, such as scabies and fungal infections, are also common due to the lack of sanitation,” he informed.

Of all these, the most affected are infants, pregnant women, and the elderly, he said, adding that the supply of milk and food can become more difficult for mothers and their babies, which will cause severe anaemia and weakness in both mothers and babies.

“Adults suffering from incurable or chronic disease such as cardiac, lungs, liver, kidney, diabetes, or cancer patients may experience interruptions in their already ongoing treatment and difficulties in providing their medicines. This wave of increase in deaths may be many times more than the current deaths, if timely measures are not taken,” he said.

The PIMA office-bearers said their doctors have been providing continuous services to meet the medical needs of people affected by the rains and floods to keep them safe from epidemics. So far, 248 medical camps have been set up at over 50 locations, where around 496 doctors and 744 paramedics rendered their services. Free treatment and free medicines were provided to more than 74,727 patients in these camps, worth about Rs3 million.

“Now, we have decided to extend these medical relief activities in view of the vast impact of the disaster. In the coming days, medical specialist camps will be organised in collaboration with the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) in the flood-hit areas. Special mobile hospitals for women are being sent to the affected districts as well under the supervision of gynaecologists with the ultrasound facility,” Dr Burney added.