Following severe floods in Pakistan caused by heavy monsoon rains and Cyclone Yemyin, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has set up mobile clinics, water sanitation projects and watery diarrhoea treatment centres, in addition to distributing vital relief items, including tents, blankets, hygiene kits and emergency food supplies.
Cyclone Yemyin swept through southern Pakistan with heavy rains and high winds on June 26, devastating entire communities that continue to feel the effects today. An estimated 2.5 million people were affected by heavy flooding after four days of torrential rain in Balochistan and Sindh provinces, leaving more than 300 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless, with over 350,000 currently living in camps.
MSF immediately contacted Pakistan authorities to gain access to affected areas and, from July 5, MSF has been working in Turbat, Gwadar, Nasirabad and Jaffarabad areas, spread widely throughout the southwest of Pakistan, running up to the Iran border. However, there are serious difficulties in reaching those affected.
"The biggest problem is the roads," said Tom Roth, MSF Head of Mission in Pakistan. "Travelling by car is immensely difficult, as vehicles get stuck in the muddy earth. Bridges and entire roads have vanished completely and many villages are still cut off from assistance, even though the water has disappeared.
"On top of this, crops were destroyed in large areas flooded by water. Although there have been some deliveries of food to affected areas, we are concerned about the ongoing food situation over the next months."
In Balochistan province alone, 1,500 villages were affected and 188 people are missing, as 19 out of 29 districts were damaged by the heavy floods. Thousands are displaced and the floods have contaminated water supplies and cut electricity.
In areas near the Iranian border, MSF teams are running mobile clinics to target isolated communities. In remote areas, such as Barija in Jhal Magsi district, teams are working to reach people unable to access official medical care and to date have treated 1,807 patients, 85% of whom were children under 5 years of age.
In Ormara and Pasni, MSF teams are providing safe drinking water to 60,000 people. An MSF team treated 270 patients for diarrhoea and skin infections in one of its first days. In Turbat, there have been four deaths from watery diarrhoea and MSF has set up a watery diarrhoea treatment centre where it is now treating an average of 50 patients a day.
"As people are drinking unsafe water, we are now treating people with acute watery diarrhoea who have cholera-like symptoms. In areas where displaced people are taking shelter in tents with inadequate sanitation, temperatures reaching 50 degrees and little available water, the situation is quite serious," said Tony Marchant, MSF Emergency Co-ordinator in Turbat.
MSF has sent up to 19 trucks of supplies to Turbat, Pasni and Ormara and is distributing essential relief items for families, including food supplies, cooking utensils, hygiene kits, blankets and plastic tubs. In Turbat, MSF has provided two additional ambulances to the regional hospital to assist with the high number of patients. MSF has also supplied a kit of drugs and supplies that can treat 50,000 people for three months and is providing doctors and nurses as extra support to the existing health system.