The recent events in Pakistan between the military forces and NATO tend to over shadow the needs of civilians. Their needs since the devastating floods last summer continue despite the growing tensions among governments. Any sanctions against Pakistan should not deprive civilians of the aid they need to survive, nor should any decisions by the Pakistan government to limit or compromise foreign aid to civilians be considered.
According to a United Nations report it is estimated that 5 million people, mostly women and children, need humanitarian assistance because of last year’s floods.
800,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in floods that began late last July, and 750,000 people are still displaced without homes.
The provinces of Sindh and Balochistan provinces took the brunt of the flooding rendering homeless 25 percent of the women and 50 percent of the children.
Gaëlle Sévenier, a spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), told reporters in Geneva this month that the agency has so far distributed food rations to more than 2.9 million people and requires another $70 million out of the $133 million it originally requested to finance its operations.
Pure water continues to be a problem and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that about one third of affected villages were still under water, and a large number of water sources were also contaminated.
Effects of Contaminated Water
Floodwater often contains infectious organisms, including intestinal bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Shigella; Hepatitis A Virus; and agents of typhoid, paratyphoid and tetanus. The signs and symptoms symptoms of illness include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, muscle aches, and fever, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Most cases of sickness associated with flood conditions are brought about by ingesting contaminated food or water. The effects of flooding can last post event as Tetanus can be acquired from contaminated soil or water entering broken areas of the skin, such as cuts, abrasions, or puncture wounds. Tetanus is an infectious disease that affects the nervous system and causes severe muscle spasms, known as lockjaw. The symptoms may appear weeks after exposure.
Floodwaters also may be contaminated by agricultural or industrial chemicals or by hazardous agents present at flooded hazardous waste sites. Although different chemicals cause different health effects, the signs and symptoms most frequently associated with chemical poisoning are headaches, skin rashes, dizziness, nausea, excitability, weakness, and fatigue.
Pools of standing or stagnant water become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, increasing the risk of encephalitis, West Nile Virus or other mosquito-borne diseases. The presence of wild animals in populated areas increases the risk of diseases caused by animal bites (e.g., rabies) as well as diseases carried by fleas and ticks.
The contamination to the soil and water in a flooding event can have residual effects, which still prove to be hazardous to those living in the flood plain after the waters have receded as stagnant pools and soil remain toxic.
UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado said the most urgent risks to children are those related to safe water and malnutrition, with malnutrition rates in the affected areas already found to be high before the floods began.