Pakistan's Floods: Disease, Homelessness for the Survivors

Flood-related diseases spread in battered country.

August 16, 2010, 1:26 PM

Aug. 16, 2010— -- The searing images from Pakistan show that disease, hunger and homelessness are getting worse. And now, three weeks into the most devastating floods the country has ever seen, outbreaks of water-borne illnesses are threatening the survivors.

Tens of thousands are now infected in the camps for the displaced. Doctors are seeing outbreaks of acute diarrhea, the precursor to fatal cholera.

"Until these people get clean drinking water and hygienic conditions, these diseases are going to spread," said Syed Imran, a relief worker at one camp.

"Most of the children coming to us have diarrhea and vomiting," said Dr. Fazal Rehman of the Dera Ismail Khan hospital. "We have treated 100-200 patients."

It's a race against time to get food, clean water and medicine to these desperate victims. An estimated 20-million Pakistanis have been affected by flooding -- equal to the entire population of Australia. One fifth of the country is under water.

In many areas, all that is standing in the way of the diseases are tiny, charity-run clinics delivering aid the government is not able to give. The clinic in Nowshera has 15,000 families dependent on it, though there are just a handful of volunteers.

The camps also have very few supplies: simple tents, no clean water, no sanitation. But they do have one thing the displaced are looking for: high ground, away from the floodwaters.

Nagin, a 28-year old Pakistani, brought her infant son to the Nowshera clinic. She worries that her son could be infected with cholera and that it could be deadly.

"My children are fine one minute and sick the next," she told ABC News.

In some areas, floodwaters are still rising, with seasonal monsoon rains still pouring down. Today, angry residents in the Sukkur area protested the slow delivery of government aid, blocking a highway. They accuse government officials of only passing out food rations when media were present.

"They are throwing packets of food to us like we are dogs," said one protester. "They are making people fight for these packets."

Pakistan's Floods: Disease Follows

Waali Khan and her family are now squatting in a local school.

"My house, hut, all swept away in the floodwater," she said. "Where will we go after this school shelter? The government should make some arrangements for us to live."

When asked whether the delay in receiving aid made her angry at Pakistan's government, Nagin replied, "Of course it does. The rich and the poor are all depending on the handouts."

Even the international community is having trouble keeping up with the need.

"Since the scale of the floods are the highest and the most serious in the last 80 years, it is possible that the aid approved by the Commission, so far, is not sufficient," Ferran Tarradellas Espuny of the International Cooperation, Humanitarian and Crisis Response told reporters.

The United Nations said that of the $459 million in international aid that is needed for immediate relief, only a quarter has arrived.

So millions of Pakistanis still wait for food, shelter, and what could be a life-saving drink of water.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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