India: Disease threatens as Kashmir flood waters turn fetid

September 16, 2014 | By | Reply More

Sep 16, – Health workers were scrambling Tuesday to manage a mounting health crisis nearly two weeks after massive flooding engulfed much of Kashmir, where they are treating cases of diarrhea, skin allergies and fungus as they hope the stagnant waters do not create conditions for more serious disease outbreaks.

hromedia India Disease threatens as Kashmir flood waters turn fetid intl. news4Countless bloated livestock carcasses were floating across the waterlogged Himalayan region. Many residents, warned to avoid the floodwaters, were rationing water bottles brought by aid workers every few days.

“The chance of cholera, jaundice and leptospirosis spreading are high,” said Dr. Swati Jha with the aid group Americares. “The most essential need right now is that of clean water.”

The scale of the disaster — described as an “unprecedented catastrophe” by the region’s top elected official — has stunned many in India, with newspapers running daily front-page aerial photos of isolated rooftops framed by mud-brown waters.

Most hospitals have been inundated, their diagnostic equipment, CT scanners, operation theaters and ventilators destroyed.

“With our health infrastructure lost, any disease can be catastrophic now. You don’t need any plague for mass deaths,” said critical care specialist Dr. Javaid Naqashbandi while scribbling out a prescription for treatment of stomach illness on the patient’s hand.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, while being claimed by both. And both sides have seen extreme devastation, with tens of thousands of families losing all their possessions.

In Indian Kashmir, more than 200 people were killed and another 287,000 were evacuated after homes, shops and other buildings filled to their rooftops almost two weeks ago.

On the Pakistani side of the border, where flooding hit more than 3,000 villages in both the Kashmir and Punjab regions, at least 328 people have died and 505,254 have been rescued.

New flooding overnight inundated even more villages in eastern Punjab province of Pakistan, and the floodwaters were moving toward the southern Sindh province.

“The rescue and relief efforts are continuing and in full swing,” the country’s National Disaster Management Authority said in a statement, assuring that food, tents and blankets were being distributed. But many flood victims complained they were still waiting for help. Pakistani news channels showed images Tuesday of police swinging batons as hundreds of flood-affected people attacked trucks and snatched food in the Jhang district of Punjab.

Pakistani doctors have treated at least 123,020 patients in flood-hit areas.

Meanwhile, India was rushing in health workers, sewage pumps, water filters, water purifying tablets and 30 generators to electrify relief camps and field hospitals. Six medical camps and 80 medical teams have already treated more than 53,000 patients, according to the army, which has 30,000 troops on the ground. Aid workers have treated thousands more.

But doctors said the need was vast — and urgent — though they said the cooler mountain temperatures were helping to slow any disease spread.

At least 80 percent of the main city of Srinagar remained under more than 3-4 meters (9-12 feet) of water on Tuesday, with most residents staying in shelters or with relatives on higher ground. As waters began to recede from a few areas, emergency workers started pumping out standing water. But they said it would take several months to remove all the water and clear the debris. Many structures could be in danger of collapse.

Naqashbandi and other doctors working out of the small, private Ahmed Hospital on the outskirts of Srinagar said they already had treated dozens of patients for gastroenteritis, as well as delivering at least 88 babies by cesarean.

Press journalist for HRO media – Saurav Nag Reports.

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Category: International

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