Pakistan: WHO warns of water-borne disease outbreak in NWFP

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
ISLAMABAD, 28 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - The provincial chapter of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) has warned of an imminent widespread outbreak of water-borne diseases in flood-hit areas of the province, an official said on Thursday.

"According to a recent survey of main water sources including hand pumps, wells, tube-wells and water supply schemes, drinking water has become highly polluted with bacteria after flooding and there is an imminent chance of an outbreak of skin and water-borne diseases," Dr Quaid Saeed, emergency medical officer working with the WHO, said from the provincial capital Peshawar.

"Since the WHO is a technical agency and not a funding one, we cannot pursue any initiative. The relief agencies, particularly those working with a mandate for the provision of clean drinking water, should come up with plans to deal with the emerging situation in flood-hit areas as early as possible, as the next couple of weeks are highly critical," Saeed warned.

In NWFP in the past six weeks, at least 14 people were killed and another 12,000 displaced by heavy flooding from the Kabul and Swat rivers due to a rise in snowmelt following unusually high summer temperatures across the northern, hilly terrain of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In addition, more than 1,700 homes were left partially damaged and over 1,900 destroyed in seven flood-affected districts of NWFP, with more damage reported in the districts of Nowshera, Charsaddah, Peshawar and Chitral, according to the provincial relief department. Moreover, there has been extensive damage to over 14,000 ha of agricultural land in the province.

When waters in the flooded areas receded, people began returning and reconstructing their homes. The NWFP provincial government has been extending assistance for this of approximately US $160 per household to help them rebuild their demolished houses.

"Over 700 family heads ?about 264 in Charsaddah district and another 477 in Nowshera ?whose mud-houses were completely demolished in recent flooding have been compensated so far," said the daily situation report by the NWFP relief department in Peshawar.

Alongside government bodies, several international and national agencies have also been involved in relief activities in the flood-hit areas of the province.

Meanwhile, the US-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has begun working on the installation of hand pumps for clean drinking water in three of the most flood-affected districts of Peshawar, Charsaddah and Nowshera.

"Out of the total $45,000 relief programme for the flood victims of NWFP, CRS is about to install 142 hand pumps in 15 villages of three districts. We've just completed [food] ration distribution to some 1,000 families for one month," Gul Wali Khan, coordinating CRS's relief programme, said from Peshawar.

"Site selection has almost been done, while boring to install pumps will start shortly. In addition to providing clean drinking water, another programme of health and hygiene education and safe practices will be run simultaneously in all these areas," Khan added.

According to some humanitarian activists, in the presence of several bodies already on the ground, central coordination to carry out relief and rehabilitation activities was lacking at the moment, which is critical in ensuring that supplies reach the needy, flood-hit communities.


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