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Rushing clean water, medical care to flood survivors

Pakistan, September 19, 2011

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Mercy Corps is rushing clean water and medical care to thousands of families in Pakistan’s flood-ravaged Sindh province. The agency’s Pakistan team reports massive displacement of people, collapse of homes and entire villages, and an outbreak of water-related diseases including malaria. After barely recovering from last year’s historic floods, Pakistan's monsoon season has once again created a health and housing crisis for more than five million people according to the UN.

“Thousands, if not millions of people are at risk of death and disease, and the situation will only get worse if water and filtration systems are not put in place,” warns Jeff Shannon, Mercy Corps’ Team Leader for Emergency Programs in Sukkur. “Newly homeless people are lining the streets, and children are drinking and wading in water where dead animals lie. For many, it’s the second time in a year they’re suffering loss and hardship.”

Mercy Corps is responding with emergency clean water for over 4,000 displaced families. Working with the global water leader ITT Corporation, Mercy Corps has already deployed two water treatment units that will provide clean water to upwards of 10,000 people a day. Mercy Corps has also established two mobile medical clinics to deal with injuries and diseases. The units will be equipped with speedy malaria testing kits and treatment, and one unit will specifically care for women and children.

In the coming weeks, Mercy Corps hopes to expand the mobile medical services provided to the people of Southern Sindh to provide veterinary care and vaccinations to flood-affected livestock. Mercy Corps teams will also assess the mid- to long-term effects of the flooding, and help local communities fully recover from this disaster.

In southern Sindh, the area hit hardest by heavy, prolonged rainfall, lack of proper drainage systems has created vast lakes of stagnant rain and sewage water that are ripe for disease transmission. Mercy Corps estimates hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of malaria have been reported in the last few days along with other water-borne illnesses such as skin disease and stomach ailments. Livestock, the source of income for many people in the region, are also at risk of disease and death due to contaminated food and water. Additionally, vast tracts of agriculture land have been flooded, resulting in a loss of food and cash crops.

“We’re working as quickly as we can to provide emergency water and medical services, but much more help is needed to help the vast number of flood-affected people. We desperately need resources to employ additional water systems, medical assistance and address long-term recovery needs,” said Shannon.

Following last year’s historic floods, Mercy Corps launched an extensive relief and recovery program that reached more than 650,000 flood-affected people in Pakistan with medical care and improved water quality and hygiene. The agency rebuilt infrastructure, employed tens of thousands of people, and supported the recovery of the agriculture sector.