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Death Toll Expected To Rise As Flooding Subsides In Some Parts Of Pakistan

Pakistani government officials say the death toll from the country’s flooding stands at more than 1,600 and it could rise significantly as flood waters recede and more bodies are identified, CNN reports (8/28). “There is no official estimate of the number of missing because mass displacements have made accounting for them almost impossible,” according to Reuters (Haider, 8/29).

On Friday, U.N. officials said floodwater in southern Pakistan had displaced at least 1 million residents in recent days, the Los Angeles Times reports. “Farther upstream in central and northern Pakistan, floodwaters have begun to recede a month after record monsoon rains swept away roads, bridges and other infrastructure and left millions of people homeless,” the newspaper writes.

U.N. officials “say the speed with which the crisis is spreading is outpacing the international community’s efforts to reach the legions who lack access to food, clean drinking water, shelter and healthcare,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “Relief workers are especially concerned about the risk to children, many of whom were already in poor health before the floods” (Rodriguez, 8/28).

“We fear the deadly synergy of waterborne diseases, including diarrhoea, dehydration and malnutrition,” Karen Allen, a senior UNICEF official, said in a statement, Reuters reports. “If nothing is done, an estimated 72,000 children, currently affected by severe malnutrition in the flood-affected areas, are at high risk of death,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator Martin Mogwanja said (Aziz, 8/28).

The Associated Press/TIME reports on the health threats the floods pose to children in Pakistan, noting that “[a]ccess to clean water has always been a problem in Pakistan, but the floods have worsened the situation significantly by breaking open sewer lines, filling wells with dirty water and displacing millions of people who must use the contaminated water around them.” Since children can get dehydrated more easily than adults, they are more vulnerable to diarrhea, dysentery and other diseases, according to the news service.

The news service reports on activity at a diarrhea treatment center in Pabbi, set up by the WHO and other aid groups. Asadullah Khan, a physician at the center, said workers have already treated more than 500 patients, mostly children, since the center opened about a week ago (Shahzad, 8/30).

Though floodwaters are receding, “medical personnel are coping with rising numbers of waterborne diseases,” PBS’ NewsHour writes in a piece reported from “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the northern province where the vast majority of flood-related deaths occurred.” The piece includes interviews with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, a doctor affiliated with Medical Emergency Relief International and a local nurse (Kaye, 8/26).

Meanwhile, aid groups are highlighting several concerns. Save the Children said that more than “100,000 heavily pregnant women” are at risk of contracting infections and disease as the flood subside, the U.K. Press Association reports. “The aid agency said at least half a million expectant mothers had been affected by the floods, with tens of thousands of newborn babies and women in potential danger in the coming months. It added many expectant mothers would be forced to give birth in temporary shelters or tents, with no access to clean water or healthcare,” the news service writes (8/29).

“The World Food Program [WFP] reports it has distributed one-month rations to 2.2 million people affected by the floods and to another 500,000 refugees and people displaced by conflict. They were on the WFP caseload before the floods,” VOA News reports. But WFP is still not reaching the six million people in need of emergency aid, it said. Emilia Casella, a spokesperson for WFP, said the agency does not have enough helicopters to fly food to those in need (Schlein, 8/28).

U.S. To Provide Pakistan With Additional 18 Helicopters By Mid-September, Pentagon Says

“The Pentagon said on Friday it would double the number of U.S. helicopters to help with relief efforts in Pakistan,” Reuters reports. “An additional 18 helicopters would arrive in mid-September as part of an expanded U.S. contribution to deal with the floods, the Pentagon said. These would be in addition to 15 helicopters and three C-130 aircraft already there,” according to the news service.

After a visit to the region to survey the damage, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said significant resources would be required when the waters go down. “The scale and scope of this natural disaster is astronomical,” Shah told a news conference in Washington after his return from Pakistan (Pleming, 8/27). During his visit to Pakistan last week, “Shah was forced to cut short a visit to a flood relief camp … after his security detail detected ‘suspicious individuals’ in the area,” the Washington Times reports. Shah said he was visiting a World Food Program food distribution site when his security detail recommended he leave the area (Kumar Sen, 8/27).

Meanwhile Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) said in an International Herald Tribune opinion piece, published on Monday, that the international community was not providing enough aid for Pakistan, Reuters reports. Kerry warned that Pakistan’s “ability to keep up the fight [against extremism] requires an effective response to this crisis.” He wrote, “The danger of the floods extends beyond a very real humanitarian crisis” (MacDonald/Haider, 8/30).

In related news, the AP/TIME looks at how the flood is just the latest issue Pakistan is having with water. “This country, with its network of rivers that flow into the mighty Indus, struggles daily with water issues – too little, too much, in the wrong place – and rain is important to more than just farmers,” the news service writes. The article looks at the long-term consequences of the flood, including its possible affect on agriculture (Sullivan, 8/28).

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