For the individual, diseases can worsen situations that are already hard to bear. For a group of people in a community, bearers of infectious diseases with whom they live in close contact can be a danger, as they can cause an epidemic. In the Rahim Yar Khan district in southern Pakistan, many villages near the Indus were flooded. The health facilities are damaged or completely destroyed. In some villages, people have to take long walks to reach the next health facility; when they get there, these Basic Health Units (BHUs) are mostly overloaded with work and lack appropriate resources.
Malteser International has been assisting the health authorities in the Rahim Yar Khan district with three medical support teams. These teams consist of one doctor, one lady health visitor (a female health professional who works exclusively with female patients), one dispenser and two social mobilisers (1 female, 1 male), who promote appropriate health and hygiene behaviour. They support the governmental teams at the BHUs several days per week; when they are not at the health units, the medical teams go out to remote villages and conduct mobile “clinics” in schools or mosques. Their main task is not only to provide medical treatment to the sick and injured, but also to help prevent health problems, detect the outbreak of diseases and minimise the health risks of infectious diseases.
After the completion of the emergency relief phase, prevention and mother and child health care will become the primary focus of Malteser International’s medical work in southern Punjab as part of a capacity-building project in the same project area.
It was the worst flooding since recordkeeping in today’s Pakistan began: In July and August 2010, massive monsoon rainfall made the rivers in Pakistan swell rapidly. In the north of the country, flash floods of the mountain rivers washed away everything that was built or stored too close to the river beds: bridges and roads, houses and belongings. Mud- and landslides blocked roads and the communication infrastructure was destroyed in many locations.
In the south of Pakistan, the run-off from rainfall in the mountainous north led to a wave along the Indus River which flooded vast parts of the lowland for several months, displacing hundreds of thousands people from their homesteads. Everywhere in the affected areas, people lost their income as fields were covered with mud, most of the harvest was destroyed and livestock perished. More than 20 million people were affected by the floods; 1,750 people died.
The overall damage can only roughly be estimated and is unimaginably high. The reconstruction efforts will take several years – as will Malteser International’s commitment for relief activities. Our overall aim is to “build back better”: to assist the communities in improving their living conditions to an even higher level than that prior to the flood, while, at the same time, raising their resilience towards future incidents – whether they are natural or man-made disasters.
Malteser International has been working in Pakistan since the earthquake of October 2005. Its main areas of intervention have been and will remain in the sectors of health and disaster preparedness. With their long-term presence in the country, Malteser International’s teams will also be able to react quickly after new emergency situations.
|Duration:||from October 2010 until end of April 2011|
|Financing:||Neighbour in Need (Austria), Germany’s Relief Coalition, Malteser International|Kontakt Malteser International: Christof Ruhmich info(at)malteser-international.org
Dr. Shumaila Akhbar, medical doctor in the Swat Distrikt with a focus on maternal and child health.