(names of staff in the article has been changed)
“During the last week we saw the number of patients with malnutrition go up”, said Dr Anwar*, a 26 year old Caritas doctor. “Happily large food distributions started two days ago.”
Dr Anwar works for Cordaid (Caritas Netherlands) in Shangla district, bordering on the Swat valley in Pakistan. He is head of one of eight health Caritas points there. Five of them are mobile medical units which travel to areas most heavily affected by the floods.
“Normally you see patients in this area with diabetes. Also males with long-term infections because of working in the coal mines in surrounding districts, females suffering from anaemia and children with skin problems,” he said.
“But now there is a high rise in acute diarrhoea, upper and lower respiratory infections and stomach and intestine problems. There’s been an enormous rise in skin infections, especially among women and children.”
Most of the diseases are waterborne. There is lack of clean water for drinking and washing, even in this mountainous area of Pakistan. People who have lost their houses are living in schools or enclosed spaces. Infections tend to spread easily.
Every mobile team has one doctor (up until now all males), one female health adviser (a specialised nurse for women), and a dispensary (this mobile unit had three men behind the table with pills, one volunteer, one male nurse, and one other technician).
More than 400 people were killed in Shangla because of the floods, but many people are still missing. Cordaid field coordinator Mr. Muhammad* fears the country’s death toll might double or triple.
“Shangla is a remote area, because of the damage to the roads and bridges nowadays it is even more isolated,” Muhammad said. “The pouring rains caused numerous landslides, bringing down many houses, and the swollen rivers smashed away roads and bridges.”
In the village of Karora, we look at the local hospital which has collapsed into the river.
Caritas is currently distributing kitchen sets and hygiene kits in the area. Assessments among the most difficult to reach villages have been finalized and goods have been purchased in Islamabad to be distributed in the area. It is important that the most needing persons get the right aid, something which can take time.
*Names of staff in the article has been changed