Even before the catastrophic floods hit Pakistan, the country was experiencing a deadly cholera outbreak due to long-standing problems like overpopulation, poor sanitation, inefficient water drainage system and public hygiene issues. This was exacerbated by the floods which saw water overflowing into sewage canals, reserves, underground water tables, and cities as a whole, making the country a hotbed for disease as a result. The situation has become rather dire according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) which estimates that at least one billion people will be affected by the resurgence of cholera in countries like Pakistan. We need a comprehensive plan of action, and we need it immediately.
There is global consensus over the fact that countries like Pakistan, which are relatively ill-equipped when it comes to dealing with challenges like this, will suffer the most at the hands of diseases like cholera. To aid combative efforts, the WHO set up a $25 million fund so that governments can acquire medicines, diagnostic equipment and set up health centres that work preventatively and save lives. Such steps are essential considering that world-over, there is already a shortage of cholera vaccines and antidotes.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, poor infrastructure, environmental catastrophes and substandard sanitation systems add to the problem of a general lack of awareness about hygiene as well. This creates an overwhelmingly dangerous situation where all members of the public experience an enhanced vulnerability to potentially fatal diseases like cholera. The floods have made the situation worse as millions of people have not only been deprived of the means to keep themselves safe from incoming dangers but the entire country has become a conducive environment for the growth and transmission of disease. Stagnant water attracts bacteria, clean water sources have been polluted, toxicity has spread to the underground water table and health facilities have been damaged beyond repair in some areas of the country. This entails that the people have been left isolated on all accounts.
There is only so much that the public can do on its own; at some point, state intervention is required and judging from the rapid spread of the disease, now is the time for the government to step in. Not only do we need new facilities and teams that travel to far-flung areas to provide medical aid but we are also in dire need of awareness campaigns that inform people of the gravity of the situation and promote a more careful approach to life.