Dr. Besser's Notebook: Confronting Disaster in Pakistan

Dr. Besser reports on the conditions in Pakistan

ByABC News
September 1, 2010, 10:07 AM

KARACHI, Pakistan Sept. 1, 2010— -- We set off from Karachi this morning in search of the floods. Unlike an earthquake which may happen all at once, a flood has a forward edge which moves more slowly bringing devastation as it travels. The floods in Pakistan have traveled the length of the country over the past month. In many areas the waters are receding, in others the water is still high.

On Tuesday, we had spent the day in and around Sukkor, a town impacted most heavily by people fleeing the flood two weeks ago. Now the camps in that area are well-established, medical care is relatively abundant, and people are starting to return to their villages and towns.

As we headed east from Karachi this morning, we began to see people in crisis. Makeshift camps with people, possessions and animals huddled under tarps and beds to avoid the sun. Near the town of Thatta, thousands of people have taken refuge in the giant Makli Hill Cemetery. How many is uncertain. Some say as many as 200,000. On Tuesday a baby was born here. Today a baby died.

In these camps help is just arriving. Clean water is in short supply. Some sleep under clean white tents supplied by Pakistani aid groups, others camp under makeshift lean-toes. I spoke with a woman who had given birth last night at the local hospital. The baby was born prematurely and did not survive. Today she was again seeking shelter from the scorching sun under a lean-to made from family furniture.

A few miles from Thatta we hit the end of the road. On both sides of the road, a few tops of houses could be seen -- the only clue that this wasn't a reservoir. Some cars tried to get through the washed out thoroughfare but most returned. A Marine hovercraft set off in search of people in need of rescue.

This represents the end of the river. As the waters flow into the Arabian Sea the flood may be ending, but the humanitarian crisis will continue.

Infectious diseases will continue to plague the population and the food crisis will worsen. For children living on the edge, there is no reserve.