Pakistan facing severe dengue emergency: Sherry Rehman

Staff Writer

Islamabad: There is at least a 50 per cent increase in dengue fever cases following recent rains in the country, especially in Karachi where hundreds and thousands of patients are affected daily at government and private hospitals, Federal Climate Change Minister Senator Sherry Rehman said this week, warning that more rains in the current month could prove detrimental to relief and rescue operations in the flood-affected areas.

She was addressing a press conference in Islamabad. Warning about worsening situation in Sindh due to outbreaks of water and vector-borne diseases including dengue and cholera, she said the River Indus at the Kotri Barrage was in the high flood with an inflow of more than 600,000 cusecs of flood water, posing a serious threat to the surrounding regions.

“It is unfortunate that all over social media and other public platforms, the opposition is actively exhorting all international supporters to not give aid or support via anyone but their own PTI sources. Such active promotion of public disunity in Pakistan’s worse hour of crisis is a shocking expose of the thinking behind the divisive politics being promoted,” she deplored.

Discussing the looming health crisis in the flooded areas, the climate change minister said floods had brought the menace of water and vector-borne diseases such as dengue and cholera.

“Karachi is seeing an outbreak of dengue while 584,246 people in camps throughout the country, health crisis could wreak havoc if it will go unchecked”, she claimed. Referring to a recent statement by Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah, she said clearing the water in Sindh might take three to six months, adding that the Manchar Lake had been overflowing since early September, causing inundation of several hundred villages where more than 100,000 people were affected and had been asked to evacuate.

“We are expediting our efforts to provide medicines and medics to the 81 calamity-hit flood-affected districts. However, these are still very initial estimates as new data is coming up on the ground”, she added.

Regarding food security, the senator said food insecurity was another impending crisis created due to floods, adding that 70 per cent of the onion crops along with rice and maize had completely been destroyed.

“Nearly 2 million acres of crops and orchards have been hit, according to the United Nations. Right now, urgent relief in the form of food, tents and medicines is being provided by NDMA and PDMAs but we need more resources to meet the needs on the ground,” she said.

“The death toll has reached 1,422 in number,” she lamented, adding that Sindh witnessed the highest number of deaths at 594 in total and had a huge number of populations in camps. Highlighting the economic losses due to the floods, Rehman maintained that Pakistan had incurred a severe agricultural loss, and damage to infrastructure, including 6579km of roads, 246 bridges and railway infrastructure.

“Around 485, 922 houses have been completely damaged in Sindh, the highest number of houses damaged in any province. Estimates will all have to be revised when the actual scale of the damage is clear. The looming threat of flood down the Kotri Barrage is still at large. Rain forecasts have predicted a monsoon stretching into September in Sindh. That could pose a huge challenge in the existing crisis. We are faced with a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions”, she remarked.

Appreciating the visit of the UN secretary general to Pakistan, she said Pakistan had appreciated his visit with an unequivocal plea for humanitarian assistance. “We, meanwhile, welcome all support for the destitute and homeless victims of this flood, irrespective of cast, colour or political creed. Every Pakistani in need has a right to assistance. We will never stand in the way of that, for burnishing our own political brand,” the senator said.