One fifth of Pakistan, an area the size of Italy, is under water due to floods caused by summer monsoons. Reports indicate 1500 people have been killed and 20 million affected by the floods. And all the while, yet another threat looms for millions of people who have been displaced by the disaster: disease.
So far, the most common complaint has been skin infections, particularly scabies, a contagious infection caused by mites that burrow under the skin and produce a rash. Nonetheless, doctors worry that conditions are such that camp fevers could become a problem, including diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever, hepatitis, cholera and upper respiratory infections. According to the United Nations, as many as 3.5 million children could be in danger of contracting such diseases, many of which are carried through contaminated water and insects.
Through the World Health Organization’s Disease Early Warning System, funded in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID since 2008, health workers are monitoring indicators to detect signs of any disease outbreak at an early stage in order to prevent its expansion.
USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah said during flood situations we must be vigilant about disease control and prevention because we know waterborne illness can lead to severe dehydration and death without prompt treatment, and that preventing and containing waterborne illness is vital to our response.
And to assure treatment is available for those who may become ill, USAID is establishing an additional 40 diarrhea treatment centers located in high risk flood-affected areas. In total, USAID is funding 55 centers. These centers will be staffed with trained international and local health workers and will be able to quickly diagnose and properly treat illness.
The U.S. Government is working in support of the Government of Pakistan – lead by the National Disaster Management Authority to provide assistance to those who have lost their homes and livelihoods.
"The United States has a history of working with the government of Pakistan to respond to natural disasters," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "We’ve been working hard over the past year to build a partnership with the people of Pakistan," she added, "and this is an essential element of that partnership; reaching out and helping each other in times of need."