Floods: Over 650,000 women in troubled waters

LAHORE     -     The Disasters Epidemiological Suscepti­bilities and Pandemic Outbreak (DESPO) appraisal warned here on Wednesday that at least 650,000 pregnant women are facing severely difficulties in the af­termath of unusual monsoon rains and consequent deluge in various parts of the country. According to the Asia & Oceania Post-Doctoral Academia (AOP­DA) impact overview report, released here, nearly 650,000 women are going to deliver babies in the next three to five weeks, who are at high risk of contract­ing lifelong ailments as a consequence of several waterborne, vector-borne and airborne diseases. The impact overview of 2022 torrential flooding warned that the newly born babies could contract diseases including leptospirosis, lym­phocytic chorio-meningitis (LCMV) and ailments related to the cell mediated im­munity (CMI).

The overview said that unprecedent­ed rains and torrential flooding had left over 6.4 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Of them are 3.1 million children and nearly 650,000 pregnant women. The report named Au­rangzeb Hafi’s DESPO Appraisal warns of the increasingly worsening situation in the hexa-effect aftermath of the high tides from the heavy monsoon of 2022.

A UNICEF statement, issued recently, says: “More than three million children are at increased risk of waterborne dis­eases, drowning and malnutrition due to the most severe flooding in Pakistan’s recent history.”

The DESPO assessment alert already warned quite timidly of the upsurge of waterborne, vector-borne as well as air­borne diseases, including fatal leptospi­rosis, followed by the toxic outbreaks due to contaminants, carried by the floodwater. “Many of these indicators were markedly specified in the post-di­saster cursors of the DESPO assessment report of 2014 floods also, but no lessons were learned from the previous calami­ties,” regrets DESPO Principal Investiga­tor Prof Aurangzeb Hafi. According to the parameters adopted in ACAPS Summary Sheet of Global Emergency and the UN-KAKHTAH markers, as well as in view of the updated data analysis of the floods of 2022, all of the core-indicators suggest that Pakistan certainly bears the ‘emer­gency’ zone’s hallmarks. 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 10-15 days, it would be emerging as a host to a number of haz­ardous ailments, especially among preg­nant women and newly born babies.

The report says that impaired absorp­tion of water, electrolytes and minerals causes impaired formation of Micelle + C complex, which in turn results in mul­tiple mal-absorption complications. The presence of either both types of deficien­cies, or any one of the above mentioned factors can seriously affect the CMI (cell mediated immunity) leading to patho­logical complications in small babies.

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 the DESPO-Flood-2022. “Childbirths, deliv­eries or pregnancies are not the kind of a phenomenon, at all, 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 delay of a single day. By now, at least, shouldn’t we start thinking sanely,” remonstrates Prof Hafi.

It is high time that the policymakers, politicians, NGOs and the public at large come forward for raising voice for those who could not raise it for themselves, the voiceless, the unborn babies, the new­borns and the disabled. Prof Aurangzeb Hafi has long been working for the is­sues concerning the pre-birth disability-prevention-centred subject matters in cataclysmic situations. He was the prime investigatory head of CRRA-CRRM (Child Retardation Risk Assessment & Child Re­tardation Risk Minimization) projects of the Asian Tsunami of 2004.

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