ISLAMABAD: More than half a million pregnant women in flood-affected areas across Pakistan are living in dangerously unhygienic conditions, the government warned on Wednesday but claimed that it was taking measures to ensure their safety.
“We believe that there are 500,000 pregnant women who are at risk because of the unsafe, unhygienic environment,” Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told a news conference here.
“But,” the minister added, “we are trying to protect them… our efforts are focused on keeping them close to makeshift hospitals.” The warning by the government comes amid reports that stagnant water and remains of dead animals are posing threats for more than 20 million survivors of the worst floods in Pakistan’s history.
Earlier, the United Nations (UN) issued a warning that over 3.5 million children were exposed to cholera and malaria threats because of the unhygienic environment in relief camps established by the government and humanitarian groups.
The threat is being aggravated by inaccessibility to several hundred thousands of people affected by gushing waters from the peaks of the Himalayas in the north to the coasts of the Arabian Sea in the south.
But the minister said the government had mobilised doctors and paramedics from all over the country to help victims in the far flung areas where help is desperately needed.
“Controlling the diseases is a very tough job… but all this is within our sight,” the minister said while referring to the grim challenge posed by the magnitude of the devastation across the country.
International humanitarian groups like the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) have also responded to the catastrophe and are reaching out to people wherever they are in despair.
Kaira said the government has already initiated a mass vaccination campaign in the affected areas to save children from cholera, malaria and diarrhoea.
“Medicines for more than three million people have been sent to the flood-hit regions,” the minister claimed.
Another feature of the government efforts, Kaira added, was the rebuilding of communication links, especially bridges, to make sure that relief agencies were able to reach every affected person.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2010.