Pakistan: Providing Care for Flood-Displaced Families in Sindh

MSF has been providing basic health care and distributing relief item to families displaced by severe flooding in the southern province of Sindh.

Pakistan 2011 © P.K. Lee/MSF

MSF staff register displaced families in Sindh.

Severe flooding in Pakistan has affected millions of people, hitting Sindh Province, in the southern part of the country, particularly hard. After weeks of torrential monsoon rains, canals burst their banks, flooding villages and leaving tens of thousands of families homeless for the past two months.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been providing basic health care to displaced families living in camps or in tents on the sides of roads. Although the rains have abated and the water is starting to recede, thousands of people are still unable to return home. MSF continues to work in the area, providing basic health care and monitoring the health of affected communities.

Badin district, in southern Sindh, was one of the worst affected areas. In Tando Bago, an eastern sub-district of Badin, land on both sides of the main roads was still underwater. Sanna* is a mother of two. Like many families in Badin, her house was totally destroyed by the floods. “The most valuable things we have now are the cooking utensils,” she says. When their home was deluged, she and her family walked until they found a piece of land just high enough to escape the water. It soon became a camp for around 200 hundred families who’d also been displaced from their homes.

They used whatever materials they could find to build makeshift shelters, including branches, plastic sheeting, and leaves. People in the camp have limited access to clean drinking water and food. “Since we arrived here, we have only received two food distributions, of 2 kg [2 kilograms, or 4.4 pounds] flour,” Sanna says. “I eat just two meals a day – chapatis and nothing else.” Asked where she gets drinking water, Sanna points to a pond of stagnant flood water not far from her tent and says, “This is where we fetch the water from.”

Sanna was pregnant when the floods hit. Her baby was born ten days ago, in her shelter in the camp, and the unhygienic living conditions leave her newborn son particularly vulnerable to disease. “He has had diarrhea since the first day he was born,” says Sanna. “Maybe I will lose my son,” she worries.

Following an independent assessment of health needs, MSF began running mobile clinics in camps for displaced people in Tando Bago, providing basic health care free of charge to people like Sanna and her baby. The most common medical conditions are diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, skin diseases, fever, and malaria. MSF’s team is also supporting staff in providing outpatient consultations at the Tando Bago Tehsil hospital. MSF has provided jerrycans, soap and bed nets to more than 750 displaced families, and has distributed 48,000 liters per day of clean drinking water in villages and camps.

The situation has improved since the last week of September. “In Tando Bago, water has started receding and displaced families are going back home, though some remain in camps or living under tents on the roadside,” says Dr Erwin Lloyd Guillergan, MSF’s emergency team field coordinator. “We will continue our mobile clinics based on the needs in the camps. We will also keep monitoring the health situation, and explore the possibilities of providing safe water in the villages where the displaced people come from over the next few weeks. If there are any immediate, unmet health needs or the risk of diseases breaking out, as an emergency organization, we will be ready to respond.”

Currently, MSF has seven international staff and 23 Pakistani staff working in Badin on the emergency response in the wake of the floods.

* Names have been changed to protect patient anonymity.

Since 1986, MSF has been working in Pakistan with Pakistani communities and Afghan refugees who are victims of armed conflict and natural disasters or who lack access to medical care. MSF teams are currently providing free emergency medical care in Kurram Agency, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and Sindh provinces.

MSF relies solely on private financial contributions from individuals around the world and does not accept funding from any government, donor agency or military or politically-affiliated group for its activities in Pakistan.