August 02, 2010

While continuing to assess the needs of people affected by the worst floods in Pakistan in 80 years, MSF has begun distributing non-food items and preparing for outbreaks of disease.



© REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Residents carry their belongings through a flooded road north west Pakistan.

This past weekend, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins San Frontières (MSF) completed several surveys to get a better picture of people’s needs amidst the floods that are surging through north-western Pakistan, the worst flooding the country has experienced in 80 years. MSF is now expanding activities to include water and sanitation provision and is also distributing kits containing hygiene products, cooking utensils and other items to fulfill immediate needs.

“The devastation by the floods is enormous, and some towns have been completely washed away,” said Josep Prior Tio, MSF’s field coordinator in Swat. “What used to be small streams are now highways of fast-flowing water that are destroying everything in their way. Many people remain trapped. Some have taken refuge at the top of hills. Others are stuck on islands that have been formed as a result of the floods.”

In case of cholera outbreaks, MSF is ready to receive and care for patients in treatment centers in the Dir, Swat, and Charsadda districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The organization is also providing water distribution to health structures in the Dir and Swat districts. “There is a real need to make sure that people have access to clean drinking water in order to prevent water-borne diseases such as cholera from spreading,” said Benoit De Gryse, MSF’s head of mission in Pakistan.

MSF has distributed 750 kits containing hygiene products, cooking sets, aqua tabs, plastic sheeting and jerry cans in Sibi and Nasirabad in Baluchistan province and is planning to distribute thousands more in other areas over the coming days.

MSF is supporting basic health units in Mandrakhel, Wadpaga, and Gulbela in the Peshawar district. In the Nowshera district, MSF is providing assistance to the Paddi hospital, where the implementation of mobile clinics already enabled the provision of care to 120 patients.

MSF is working on mobilizing resources and is preparing to send additional personnel to assist with the intervention in the affected areas. The organization is also continuing to conduct exploratory missions in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan to further identify what is needed. A significant challenge is finding ways to reach people stranded in areas that have been cut off by the water. MSF is planning to use a number of helicopters to assess areas that are inaccessible by road.