Oxfam warns of severe health crisis in Pakistan as flood funding stalls

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 09 Sep 2010

Trebling of disease in less than three weeks underlines need for further funding

International aid agency Oxfam today warned of a public health catastrophe in flood-hit Pakistan. The aid agency said while funding from the international community to respond to the disaster had stalled in recent weeks, the number of cases of reported disease, numbers of people displaced, and numbers of people affected by the floods continues to rise each day.

The initial UN appeal, launched to meet the immediate needs of 6 million Pakistanis, is just 64 percent funded, an increase of only seven percent in the past two and a half weeks. During this same period, the number of cases of acute diarrhea, skin diseases, acute respiratory infections and suspected malaria have all trebled.

Skin diseases have leapt from 260,000 to 860,000 cases, acute diarrhea has leapt from 200,000 to 610,000 cases, and acute respiratory infections have leapt from 200,000 to 670,000 cases.

The UN appeal was hastily prepared when the floods began and does not reflect current needs. Since it was launched the number of people affected by the floods has increased from 14 million to 21 million. The appeal is due to be revised in the next week and the fresh appeal is likely to be triple the amount of the initial appeal.

Oxfam warned that the two most important areas for disease prevention and treatment are the worst funded. Just 30 percent of the money needed for water and sanitation and 50 percent for health have been received.

Neva Khan, head of Oxfam in Pakistan, said:

“Just in the past week, the estimated number of people affected has increased by three million. But funding levels have stayed the same. More people have got sick and more people have fled from the floodwaters. If we are to avert the spread of waterborne disease, then clean water, sanitation and medical supplies are vital. It is shameful that these essentials have attracted such paltry levels of donor funding.”

So far only 2.5 million people have been provided with clean water, which is vital to prevent the spread of water-borne disease. Lack of funds is preventing agencies from scaling -up. The World Health Organisation warns that if the affected population is not immediately provided with clean water, sanitation and hygiene materials, we may see as many as six million new cases of acute diarrhea in flood-affected areas.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said the Australian Government had provided an initially generous response to Pakistan worth $35 million.
“The Australian Government has responded quickly to the need in Pakistan, providing money and relief supplies. The needs in Pakistan are immense and Oxfam hopes the Government continues to provide a strong response,” Mr Hewett said.

For more information, please contact:
In Pakistan, Rebecca Wynn, +92 308 555 9694, rwynn@oxfam.org.uk
In Australia, Kate Thwaites, +61 407 515 559, katethwaites@oxfam.org.au