‘Over 3m kids prone to lifelong ailments in flood-hit regions’

LAHORE    -   In the wake of recent cata­strophic floods in Pakistan, over 3.1 million children and around 650,000 unborn ba­bies, expected to be delivered in the next three to five weeks, are prone to severe lifelong ailments due to several water­borne, vector-borne and air­borne diseases.

This warning was issued by the Asia and Oceania Post-Doc­toral Academia (AOPDA) in its report titled ‘1st Impact Over­view of 2022 Torrential Flood­ing in Pakistan’, released by a spokesperson for the organisa­tion here on Sunday.

The report warns that millions of children might contract vari­ous infectious diseases includ­ing leptospirosis, lymphocytic chorio-meningitis (LCMV) and ailments related to the cell medi­ated immunity (CMI) as a result of the post-flooding consequenc­es. The report said the unprec­edented rains and consequent flooding swamped more than two-thirds of the rural areas of Pakistan, leaving over 6.4 million people in dire need of humani­tarian aid. The ‘Disaster’s Epide­miological Susceptibilities and Pandemic Outbreak’ assessment report, named Aurangzeb Hafi’s DESPO Appraisal, austerely warns of the increasingly wors­ening situation in the aftermath of the high tides from the heavy monsoon of 2022.

The assessment alert warns of upsurge in infectious diseas­es including, but not limited to fatal leptospirosis, because of the toxic outbreaks due to the contaminants, carried by the floodwater. “Many of these in­dicators were markedly speci­fied and clearly signposted in the post-disaster cursors of the DESPO assessment report of 2014’s floods also; but who bothers to recall, evoke or learn from the previous calamities,” says Principal Investigator of DESPO Prof Dr Aurangzeb Hafi.

In many hard-hit areas of Pakistan, poorly maintained sewers are overflowing, car­rying along heavy toxins and remnant industrial waste, thus contaminating the drinking water supplies. The floodwater in many areas bears high toxic­ity concentrations and strong indications suggest the pres­ence of arsenic along with a considerable number of other toxins, coming from industrial sewers. And if the situation prevails for another 10 to 15 days, it would be emerging as a host to a number of hazard­ous ailments, especially among pregnant women and children, the report warned.

Malnutrition and mal-ab­sorption rates in children, particularly those in refugee camps, is becoming thrice the emergency threshold, mea­sured as per the UN’s WFP-WHO laid parameters, cautions DESPO-Flood-2022.

UNICEF also states that according to the Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), Pakistan is a known ‘climate hotspot’ and country where children are considered ‘ex­tremely high risk’ to the impacts of climate change, ranking 14th out of 163 CCRI-ranked countries and regions, placing Pakistan in the ‘Ex­tremely high risk’ classification category in the Index. Children in ‘Extremely high risk’ coun­tries face a deadly combination of exposure to multiple climate and environmental shocks combined with high levels of underlying child vulnerabil­ity, due to inadequate essential services, such as water, sanita­tion and essential healthcare.

As per the statistics revealed in a recent statement issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), “6.4 plus million people are in dire need of humanitar­ian aid, including 421,000 refu­gees”. “Childbirths, deliveries or pregnancies are not the kind of phenomena that can be post­poned or delayed for the disas­ters to be over – or even be ‘put on hold’ for the policy-works to be completed. Whatever is to be done is to be done right now. Whatsoever are the steps, the requisite procedures, or the measures that are to be taken, are to be taken here and now, without the delay of a single day,” remonstrates Prof Hafi.

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