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Health response launched for the displaced in Pakistan

Note for the media

Some 423 000 people in Pakistan need urgent health care after being affected by recent conflict and flooding. WHO and partners are requesting US$ 9.76 million to undertake life-saving health responses to this humanitarian crisis.

Outbreaks of communicable diseases, including acute watery diarrhoea, respiratory infections, and various water- and vector-borne diseases, are of high risk due to large numbers of people forced into cramped, temporary housing where concerns exist over the safety of drinking water and sanitation. With malaria season starting, risks of a large-scale spread of malaria are high. Outbreaks of measles, one of the major killers of children, are also possible due to low immunization coverage in some areas.

"Thousands of lives are at risk in Pakistan if we do not act now to provide urgent health care to those affected by these terrible floods or forced from their homes by violence," said Dr Eric Laroche, Assistant Director-General for WHO's Health Action in Crises.

The areas worst affected in the heavy monsoon rains in August were Peshawar in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), and Rajanpur in the Punjab province. Mud houses were washed away and clinics, bridges and other infrastructure destroyed. Some 200 000 people were affected in NWFP and 100 000 in Punjab. Many urgently need aid, particularly the elderly, sick and disabled.

Violence in NWFP and the neighbouring Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has forced 123 000 people to flee in recent months. While a considerable number of displaced people have returned due to the Ramadan ceasefire, it is estimated that 400 000 more could be displaced if hostilities resume at the end of Ramadan (late September) or earlier. UN agencies cannot reach a further 200 000 displaced inside FATA.

WHO and the Ministry of Health are coordinating the activities of health players as part of the "health cluster" response to address the health needs of people in camps and areas of return, as well as support health services in the seven districts hosting the displaced.

“Local authorities, with federal support, have provided help, including healthcare support and food,” said Dr Khalif Bile, WHO’s representative to Pakistan. “But the extent of the crisis means more aid is needed, including medicines, water and sanitation materials for 150 000 people. Restoring key services, like health, is vital.”

WHO announced a US $5.5-million package as part of the Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan to:

  • coordinate health interventions
  • offer primary health care: treat illnesses, mother and child care, psychosocial support
  • monitor disease outbreaks and nutrition statuses
  • assess local health services, identify damages, provide equipment and fix facilities
  • improve water quality and provide water and sanitation to health facilities.

WHO's health cluster partners need a combined US$ 4.26 million for crucial health activities, including UNICEF (maternal and child health care, such as immunizations), UNFPA (reproductive health services), Merlin NGO (primary health care), Islamic Relief Pakistan and International Medical Corps (mobile services), and Johanniter (mother and child health services).

For more information contact:

Paul Garwood
Communications Officer
Health Action in Crises
WHO, Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 3462
Mobile: +41 794 755546
E-mail: garwoodp@who.int

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