In flood-hit zones, health & nutrition status ALARMING


The health status of the population hit by monsoon rains and flooding in Sindh is deteriorating and outbreaks of malaria, diarrhoea, respiratory infections, cholera, hepatitis and rabies are rising among the survivors.
In the 9th report released on Thursday by a civil society network, Peoples Accountability Commission on Floods (PACF), it is strongly recommended that supply of safe water, essential medicines and vaccines, establishment of diarrhoeal treatment centres, provision of maternal and child healthcare services, management of malnutrition, deployment of mobile clinics, strengthening of referral mechanism, rehabilitation of primary healthcare (PHC) facilities, establishment of Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) and supplementary feeding should be prioritised to help the displaced people.
The report expressed grave concern over the health response provided to the pregnant women during delivery, insufficient supply of essential medicines and equipments at basic health facilities and the need for continuous medical support to 75 percent of the flood-affected people.
Besides disclosing the facts, the civil society’s flood situation report revealed that 72 percent of the displaced population in Sindh was found malnourished, specifically pregnant women and children under five, and elderly and chronic poor, which was also confirmed by the UNICEF.
“Seventeen out of 100 children were found malnourished, which marks as a national security issue,” it added.
The report also discloses that half of the flood-affected people are lacking facility of safe drinking water resulting in acute diarrhoea and other water borne diseases.
During the flood emergency, around 828 alerts and 63 outbreaks regarding acute diarrhoea, severe malaria, cholera, measles, pertussis and tetanus were reported while only 38 percent of total alerts were responded to.
Regarding the level of damages suffered by health facilities in 22 districts, out of the total 682 Basic Health Units (BHUs), 224 (33 percent) were damaged and of the 111 Rural Health Units (RHCs), 20 (11 percent) were damaged.
Due to the bad situation of water supply and sanitation, 666,711 cases of malaria and other diseases were confirmed.
The report on Civil Society Floods Situation Report (CSFSR) released by PACF states that 27 percent of the births were not attended by any medical professional.
Since the floods wreaked havoc in the province, a 10 percent decrease in number of people getting water from protected sources and 5 percent decrease in piped water sources has been witnessed.
Talking about flushed and non-flushed latrines, it was said in the report that there are 660,436 people who are unable to access the hygienic provision of defecation.
The civil society report states that 60 percent maternal and child health facilities are in short supply of requirements and health centres are lacking basic newborn kits, while 73 percent centres do not have sufficient supply of Oxytocin and anticonvulsants. Adding the data collected by members of PACF, it was stated in the report that 32 percent of the flood-affected health facilities had adequate stocks, medicines, equipments and other consumables at least for one to two weeks, while half of the health facilities reportedly had marginally adequate stocks.
However, it was stated that only 18 percent of the health facilities had insufficient medicines and consumables to provide effective PHC services to the affected population.
Around 32 percent of health facilities had vaccines and other injectable drugs while 23 percent of facilities had insufficient vaccines that needed to be replenished to ensure continued vaccination process.
Citing 15 situations reported by UN-OCHA, the CSFSR stated that in the prevailing health and nutrition conditions, 27.3 percent cases were found suffering from acute respiratory infections in Sindh; whereas, more than 75 percent of households in the flood-affected areas reportedly require continuous medical support.
Presenting health statistics, it was pointed out that nearly 99,000 moderately malnourished children and more than 59,000 severely malnourished children under five years need to be treated while 9,800 children are admitted to stabilisation centres. Moreover, 571,000 pregnant and lactating women need to be screened and more than 99,900 malnourished women need to be treated.
Quoting a health survey conducted by UNICEF and Nutrition Cell of the Sindh Health Department, it was stated that the flood-affected people are suffering from food insecurity due to poverty and destruction of the foods stocks and crops during the rains.
Regarding the sources of drinking water, it was reported that 50.8 percent households used tube-well water, followed by 32 percent, who use water through pipelines while 17 percent use other sources such as community taps, wells and bottled water.
In mothers, severe to moderate rate of iron-deficiencies and anaemia were found between 0.6 percent and 20.3 percent, respectively, while only 16.8 percent of the mothers had the desirable level of Vitamin D.
The survey disclosed that 17.9 percent children under five in the urban areas of Sindh and 32.8 percent children in the rural areas are faced with severe stunting; 42 percent children were found to be suffering from vitamin D deficiency, while 38.6 percent were found to be zinc deficient.
The CSFSR strongly recommended provision of safe water by ensuring water quality and environmental health; sustain and strengthen the Disease Early Warning System (DEWS); maintain continuous supply of essential medicines and vaccines to the affected districts; and establishment of diarrhoeal treatment centres.
“The government is not taking solid steps to control vector-borne diseases like malaria in the affected districts. Majority of women and children are facing severe hardships and deprived of supplementary foods and essentials medicines during pre- and post-delivery period. Majority of the people living in flood-affected areas are food insecure and their lives are at great risk due to the non-availability of basic food items,” it was reported.
The report suggested deployment of mobile clinics for areas with poor accessibility to health facilities; strengthening of referral services to secondary health facilities for patients with life threatening conditions; provision of ambulances, rehabilitation or temporary arrangements at the health facilities for emergency obstetric and newborn care; provision of PHC services to be examined properly; health education through social mobilisation and mass communication for the sustainable provision of access to information; establishment of 180 centres for OTP and supplementary feeding programme as well as stabilisation centres.