Amid unprecedented floods which have affected 33 million people and damaged nearly 900 health facilities, Pakistan faces the risk of widespread outbreaks of diseases, including diarrhoea, dengue, malaria, polio and Covid-19.

The floods have killed more than 1,300 people since 14 June and injured over 12,000, according to the country’s National Disaster Management Authority. The provinces of Sindh and Balochistan are the worst affected with floodwaters engulfing entire villages and wiping out standing crops.

Mirza Nasir-ud-Din Mashhood Ahmad, special secretary at the Ministry of National Health Services, told SciDev.Net that with most health facilities damaged in the worst-affected districts, outbreaks of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue are “imminent in the next few weeks”.

Ahmad said Sindh is the worst affected as the waters here “will not dry for another three to four months”, hampering rehabilitation work and the restoration of health facilities. The province faces a “health emergency”, with the floods limiting access to a vulnerable population and worsening an already ailing health system, he added.

National rainfall was 243 per cent above average in August, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department which is forecasting more rains in the month ahead.

Indrika Ratwatte, director for Asia and the Pacific at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), says this will likely worsen conditions for nearly half a million displaced people and force more to abandon their homes.

“People are facing many challenges in the informal settlements, camped along roadsides to escape surrounding flood waters, setting up shelters with whatever resources they have,” said Ratwatte, urging the international community to step up its support.

The World Health Organisation warned that ongoing disease outbreaks in Pakistan including diarrhoea, dengue fever, malaria, polio and Covid-19 are being exacerbated, particularly in the camps and places where water and sanitation facilities have been damaged.

Public health in Pakistan was already considered compromised before the flood. About 38 per cent of children under five are stunted and the country has the world’s second-highest global burden of hepatitis C.

Read the full article about flooding in Pakistan affects public health at Eco-Business.