Pakistan sends more doctors to fight disease after floods

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has sent thousands of extra doctors and paramedics to a province hit by the country’s worst floods to contain the spread of a disease that has killed at least 300 flood victims, officials said on Friday.

According to the provincial health department there, the government has fired some doctors who refused to work in Sindh province. Since July, floods have killed 724 people in the province, including 311 children and 133 women.

Monsoon rains and floods, which many experts say are fueled by climate change, have affected 33 million people, killed at least 1,596 and damaged 2 million homes across Pakistan.

About half a million flood survivors are homeless, living in tents and temporary structures.

Over the past two months, Pakistan has sent nearly 10,000 additional doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to help survivors in health facilities and makeshift medical camps across Sindh. About 18,000 doctors and nearly 38,000 paramedics are treating survivors in the province, according to the health department.

The floods have damaged more than 1,000 health facilities in Sindh, forcing survivors to travel to other areas to seek medical care.

Waterborne and other diseases have killed 334 flood victims in the past two months. The death toll prompted the World Health Organization last week to raise the alarm of a “second disaster” as doctors on the ground battle outbreaks.

Some of Pakistan’s floodwaters have receded, but many districts of Sindh are still under water, and displaced people living in tents and makeshift camps face the risk of gastrointestinal infections, dengue fever and malaria, which are on the rise amid the stagnant waters.

In Sindh, teams of fumigators flew over flood-affected areas and sprayed to keep mosquitoes at bay and prevent further dengue and malaria outbreaks. Over 134,000 cases of diarrhea and 44,000 cases of malaria were reported in the worst-hit areas of Sindh last week.

Dengue fever is also on the rise, especially in the provincial capital, Karachi, where health teams sprayed insecticides into puddles of water in the streets.

The devastation has prompted the United Nations to consider sending more money than it pledged during an emergency appeal of $160 million to support Pakistan’s flood response.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is in New York, was scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Friday to seek more help from the international community. Sharif met President Joe Biden at a reception for world leaders gathering in New York, his office said.

Sharif took to Twitter on Thursday to thank Biden for highlighting the plight of the flood victims and calling on the world community to help Pakistan, which was still under water and in need of help. Washington is a major supporter of Pakistan’s flood response.

According to Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 123 flights are in dire need of assistance, with assistance from various countries and UN agencies. Local authorities are distributing these supplies, which include tents, food, kitchen sets and drinking water bottles, to flood survivors across the country.

On Wednesday, Julien Harneis, the UN resident coordinator in Pakistan, said the humanitarian situation remained dire, with widespread damage to physical infrastructure and harm to people and livestock. Outbreaks of diarrhoea, typhoid and malaria are increasing rapidly as millions sleep in makeshift shelters or in the open air, he said.