Islamabad, Sept 14, 2010 – Merlin is scaling up to address the expected surge of deadly infections ushered in by the malaria season. “We must be prepared to respond to as many as 2 million cases of malaria over the next four months in all areas that are mildly or severely flood-affected,” says Naeem Durrani, Merlin’s malaria expert in Pakistan. “By comparison, last year’s estimated figures for all of Pakistan were 1.3 to 1.5 million cases for the whole year.”
Durrani points out that malaria is highly endemic in all 62 districts that have been severely affected by recent floods. As people have been displaced, disease transmission potential has significantly increased, exposing 20 million people to life-threatening malaria outbreaks.
Durrani warns that the flood-devastated country is now the cusp of a second wave of disease: the deadly strain of Plasmodium falciparum, which can cause cerebral malaria.
As the seasonal peak approaches, Durrani points to a confluence of factors contributing to an increased number of hot spots of malaria outbreaks.
“What you need to trigger an epidemic is a breakdown in health services, the lack of trained health personnel, large population movements and favourable climactic conditions, such as a prolonged summer and excessive rains.” Should the flood-affected areas experience an extended month of hot and wet weather, it could lead to a health disaster, he adds.