Malaria spreads fast through flood-hit Pakistan

STORY: Malaria is spiralling into a deadly problem for Pakistan’s flood refugees.

As waters recede from cataclysmic floods in hard-hit Sindh Province, cases of skin and eye infections, diarrhoea, malaria, and dengue fever have surged.

In the past day, a quarter of the 19,000 patients screened in the province, tested positive for malaria.

And officials say water-borne diseases claimed the lives of at least 324 people in flood-ravaged regions.

This local hospital in Sehwan takes in large numbers of patients every day.

Many, like Manzooran Waris Memon, came in after floodwaters swept away their homes.

"I had malaria before the floods came. The floods aggravated my sickness because I also have breathing problems. My house collapsed in the floods, which has made my illness worse."

Dr Abdul Rauf, said an overwhelming number of flood refugees come in with malaria and gastro ailments.

“The number of our patients has increased by 20-30% because of the floods. That is because they are drinking the open flood waters. We usually do not have so many malaria patients. But now, eight or nine out of ten sick children coming to us are suffering from malaria.”

Southern Pakistan saw a historic and intense monsoon season since mid-June, affecting around one-seventh of the nation’s 220 million people.

Pools of stagnant floodwater, stretching hundreds of kilometres and taking as long as six months to recede, have created the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes and pathogens.

Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the floods now live in the open, in makeshift camps.

With the weak health system in Pakistan and lack of support, displaced families complained of being forced to drink and cook with unsafe water.

Volunteers have been giving out mosquito repellent, coils and mosquito nets to refugees.

But local authorities say they need more test kits and medicines.

Many flood refugees also complain supplies have not reached them, despite the efforts of the government and relief groups.