WHO: Pakistan at risk of major disease outbreak following floods
The climate emergency in Pakistan is rippling to other humanitarian disasters.
As floods in Pakistan risk sinking one-third of the country in water, top UN chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the classification of the situation in the country as a grade 3 emergency, which is the highest level of emergency in the UN book - especially as risks of disease outbreaks skyrocket.
A grade 3 emergency entails that all three levels of the United Nations are working in response: the country and regional offices, as well as the UN headquarters in Geneva.
“Floods in Pakistan, drought and famine in the Greater Horn of Africa, and more frequent and intense cyclones in the Pacific and Caribbean all point to the urgent need for action against the existential threat of climate change,” Ghebreyesus said in Geneva at a regular briefing.
According to the World Health Organization, a minimum of 1,000 have been killed and 1,500 injured. In addition, more than 161,000 are currently living in camps.
While 900 health centers and facilities in the country have been damaged,180 of them are completely damaged and rendered ineffective, leaving thousands affected with no healthcare.
Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, revealed that the “WHO has initiated an immediate response to treat the injured, provide life-saving supplies to health facilities, support mobile health teams, and prevent the spread of infectious diseases."
The impact of the current flood on Pakistanis is a lot more severe than previous floods, including the 2010 Pakistan floods.
Fears of potential disease outbreak
The floods aren't only killing people, they're also triggering disease outbreaks, including acute water diarrhea, dengue fever, malaria, polio and even COVID-19. Most of these cases come where water and sanitation facilities have been damaged.
“WHO is working with health authorities to respond quickly and effectively on the ground. Our key priorities now are to ensure rapid access to essential health services to the flood-affected population strengthen and expand disease surveillance, outbreak prevention and control, and ensure robust health cluster coordination,” said Dr. Palitha Mahipala, WHO Representative in Pakistan.
Islamabad, responding to the emergency, established control rooms and medical camps over the country, in addition to organizing air evacuation operations, and conducting health awareness sessions on waterborne and vector-borne diseases, among other steps.
Global warming was leading the glaciers in mountainous northern regions to melt faster than usual, aggravating the impact of heavy rain, according to Pakistan senator and federal minister for climate change, Sherry Rehman. 7,532 is the number of glaciers Pakistan has, a number that is bigger than anywhere outside the polar regions. This causes Pakistan to be one of the countries most exposed to climate change-related weather extremes.