Waterborne Diseases impacting Pakistan
The country of Pakistan is currently the fifth most populous nation in the world, with almost 225 million inhabitants. Due to the number of people living in the country, Pakistan is at a greater risk of experiencing devastation from the effects of changing weather patterns. Events such as the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the floods of 2010 and 2022 have had disastrous effects on the nation’s health policies. The country is also experiencing economic and food crises. This further exasperates the effects of diseases impacting Pakistan. Currently, many organizations, such as the British Red Cross, are categorizing waterborne diseases as a health emergency in Pakistan. These include cholera, typhoid, dysentery and hepatitis A, which are largely spread due to unsafe water and poor sanitation conditions.

The 2022 Floods of Pakistan

The recent floods in the summer of 2022 were disastrous for Pakistan. The floods have severely affected Pakistan’s agriculture, which makes up a big chunk of their exports and food supply, thereby threatening to cause a major public health disaster. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 8 million people are currently in need of health assistance as they are at grave risk from the many diseases impacting Pakistan. WHO also estimates that almost 10% of health facilities experienced damage, hindering the public health system’s ability to target the health crises. This is a grave issue as before the floods, Pakistan was already suffering from health crises. It had the second-highest amount of Hepatitis C cases. More than 35% of children under five are stunted.

In the areas that the floods affected the most, such as Sindh and Baluchistan, there has been a spike in disease outbreaks. In certain areas, the cases of malaria doubled. There was also a rise in outbreaks of dengue and acute water diarrhea. Another issue of concern is the cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), which already had a calamitous number before the floods in both Sindh and Baluchistan. Cases of SAM are on the rise to alarming numbers.

Immunization Disrupted

Another major issue that the floods caused is the effect it has had on the public health system’s ability to effectively tackle some of these disease outbreaks. The floods have disrupted many immunization programs, such as the nationwide polio vaccination program. Pakistan is currently one of the only two remaining polio-endemic countries in the world. Furthermore, the flood has also had major ramifications for the programme on immunization (EPI) surveillance efforts and the treatment of chronic diseases, such as tuberculosis and human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV).

Organizations Working Toward a Better Future

Although the health crises in the country are a concern, global organizations are helping to lead the fight against many of these waterborne diseases. The Pakistan Red Cross has mobile health facilities in many of the affected areas as they attempt to treat flood victims. Furthermore, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are also working alongside the WHO to increase the surveillance of some of the major diseases impacting Pakistan, such as acute diarrhea and cholera.

– Saad Haque
Photo: Flickr