Aid Workers Stem the Tide as Summer Monsoons Claim Lives

GENEVA, Switzerland, August 2, 2001 (ENS) - Latest reports from the offices of the international aid organization CARE in Orissa, India say the threat of an epidemic from water borne diseases now looms large over the flood affected areas.

In a report to Reliefweb operated by the Geneva office of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), CARE warns that infection is spreading.

Even as the flood waters recede and the river waters fall below the danger mark, the danger of disease exists because the land has become water logged, providing excellent places for disease bearing vectors to breed.

According to public health department sources, 14 persons in the Indian state of Orissa have died and hundreds are affected by gastroenteritis. There is a lack of adequate medical support and most areas continue to be inacessible due to the flooding, CARE reports.

Orissa

The main priority is ensuring clean drinking water for flood victims. Dr. Ganthimathi of the Indian Red Cross (second from right) explains how to purify water without firewood to boil it. (Photo courtesy IFRC)
Red Cross reporter Bijoy Patro in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent is prioritizing health in Orissa after the floods.

Patro says that 3,590 cases of malarial fever have been recorded since the flood. Other hazards for the homeless include snake bites. Venomous snakes escape the waters onto the same limited areas of high ground as humans and so far, 142 snakebite cases have been registered.

Except for the snakes, these accounts parallel reports from a number of other Southeast Asian areas swept by the deadly annual summer monsoon rains.

In Pakistan since July 23, floods have claimed the lives of 210 people, according to the Emergency Relief Cell of the Federal Government of Pakistan. Sixty-four died in Rawalpindi, and in the village of Dadar in Mansehra district, 105 deaths have been confirmed. The majority of the affected population in Rawalpindi are slumdwellers. The figure of the people affected by the floods is roughly estimated at 400,000, according to the Emergency Relief Cell.

NGOs are focusing their relief efforts on the affected Katchi Abadis (slums) of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. They include Islamic Relief and All Pakistan Alliance for Katchi Abadis, OXFAM-GB, and Catholic Relief Services.

One group of Pakistani NGOs has appealed for the equivalent of US$33,000 for the provision of basic relief items to almost 2,200 affected families living in these slums. ACT (Action by Churches Together) has launched an appeal, seeking $134,000 to buy food packets, shelter kits, reconstruction kits, and kitchen utensils for 1,000 families in Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Mansehra district.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pakistan National Institute of Health have warned of the risk of a cholera outbreak in the affected areas of Rawalpindi.

According to WHO and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the risk of such an outbreak is greatest on the sixth day after the onset of a flood situation like this. WHO and UNICEF, in collaboration with the government of Pakistan, started distributing water purification tablets immediately after the disaster.

Floods and landslides killed 31 on Indonesia's Nias island, reports Ahmad Pathoni from Medan, Indonesia for Agence France Presse. Rescue workers and a shipment of food and medicine were headed Thursday for the Indonesian island of Nias, hit by flash floods and landslides which have killed at least 31 people and left 99 missing.