Flood survivors bound to face pneumonia


Moomal Oad, a mother of four, was trying to tie a betel nut leaf around her three-week-old daughter to heal the latter’s chest congestion.
As the tent provided to her by an international aid agency was torn from one side, the mother and child had spent the night in the cold.
Moomal has no idea whether her baby is suffering from mild cold or pneumonia.
Apart from her home remedies, she has no other options to treat her baby, as there is no healthcare facility in the vicinity and lady health workers do not visit their tent village.
Moomal was one of the more than 100,000 expectant mothers in flood-hit areas of Sindh, where vast areas were submerged during the recent monsoon floods. Now many of them, after having their babies delivered, are living under the open sky or in tents.
The nations around the globe including Pakistan are observing the World Pneumonia Day today (Saturday) to increase awareness about the disease as a public health issue and help prevent millions of avoidable child deaths each year. But it seems that the message of the day will take a long time to reach mothers like Moomal.
After the recent rains in Quetta in Balochistan, the weather turned cold in Sindh and the government has estimated that nine million flood-affected people are still without proper shelter.
With increasing cold, children, especially infants, will be the worst affected. In the absence of proper shelter, nutrition, safe drinking water and sanitation; these children are already suffering from abdominal diseases and now the cold wave would double their problems.
Moomal is living in a tent city located in a remote area of Badin district, one of the districts most affected by the recent monsoon floods in the province.
The tent city, including around three dozens tents, is located on a raised embankment of a drain and looks like an island.
It is surrounded by water and there is a long queue of colourful tents on which the name the international donor aid agency that has donated them is painted.
The Global Coalition against Child Pneumonia, a network of international, government, non-governmental and community-based organisations, research and academic institutions, foundations, and individuals, has organised the World Pneumonia Day to highlight the disease among donors, policymakers, health care professionals and the general public.
The World Pneumonia Day 2011, being observed under the theme: “I am the face of pneumonia”, strives to connect the personal, human stories that illustrate pneumonia’s direct impact. The data of international institution working on healthcare, pneumonia sickens 155 million children under five and kills 1.6 million each year.
Oxfam and other international aid agencies had recently issued appeals to international community to come forward to help the flood-affected population in Sindh ahead of winter. But it appears that the appeal will go unheard for several reasons including the provincial government poor performance in these areas and local and international media’s attention shifting away from the issue.