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Pakistan: preventive health measures in flood-affected areas

04-08-2010 News Release 10/143

Geneva (ICRC) – The ongoing devastating floods in Pakistan will have a severe impact on an already vulnerable population, said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today.

  ©Reuters/Faisal Mahmood    
A man carries belongings on his shoulder while wading through receding flood waters in Nowshera, located in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.    
  ©Pakistan Red Crescent    
The ICRC is providing support for eight basic health-care units and two mobile units enabling the Pakistan Red Crescent to provide medical care for many of the displaced in flood-affected areas.    
  ©Pakistan Red Crescent    
A volunteer takes care of a girl at a basic health-care unit of the Pakistan Red Crescent.    

As rain continues to fall, the delivery of humanitarian aid is becoming better organized although it remains difficult to reach some of the areas that have been hardest hit.

In addition to all the other damage they have caused, floodwaters have destroyed much of the health infrastructure in the worst affected areas, leaving inhabitants especially vulnerable to water-borne disease.

" One of our priorities at the moment is to do what we can to prevent the spread of water-borne disease, " said Bernadette Gleeson, an ICRC health delegate based in Islamabad. " We are also striving to boost the capacity of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society to take appropriate action in the event of any outbreak of water-borne infectious disease. By restoring water systems to working order and distributing such items as soap and wash basins, we hope to ward off many of the health problems that could arise if large numbers of people had to use contaminated water supplies. "

Multi-disciplinary teams comprising health staff, water engineers and economic-security specialists have been deployed in the worst flood-affected areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the North-West Frontier Province), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Punjab. Together with Pakistan Red Crescent volunteers, who continue to distribute food, water and hygiene items, the teams will set priorities in terms of providing clean water and emergency health care.

The ICRC is providing support for eight basic health-care units and two mobile units enabling the Pakistan Red Crescent to address the medical needs of many of the displaced in flood-affected area s.

As a precaution, the ICRC already has tents, beds, treatment facilities and medicines to treat up to 600 people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, ready for use in the event of an outbreak of cholera. Additional health staff and suitable medicines will also be available should they be required.

Relief supplies for a further 14,000 flood victims have been delivered to the Quetta branch of the Pakistan Red Crescent for distribution in Balochistan. Food continues to be distributed to 10,000 flood-affected people in southern FATA. In addition, a distribution of food to 19,000 people in Nowshera and Charsadda is planned for today.

  For further information, please contact:
  Michael O'Brien, ICRC Pakistan, tel: +92 300 850 8138
  Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02