Humanitarian Health Action

Disease and displacement: dealing with the flood crisis

By Paul Garwood, WHO Communications Officer
3 September 2010

Across Pakistan, millions of people have been forced from their homes by catastrophic flooding, among them 60-year-old tuberculosis suffered Shafiullah and his 7-member family.

Shafiullah's family
Shafiullah's family

Shafiullah sits on a wooden bed, or charpai, in the northern Sindh province city of Sukkur. His five sons and one daughter, aged 2-13 years, crowd around. His wife pulls a veil over her face when we appear. Their home is a stiflingly hot brick classroom at a girls school, which has become a "camp" for scores of people forced by floodwaters from their homes.

"I have suffered from tuberculosis for two years," says Shafiullah, stopping mid-sentence to spit out some blood onto the dusty floor. "But when I was in my home, I could access care from a local clinic more easily. Now it is damaged and we no longer are in our homes. I am getting some medicines, but the conditions are hard. I have no money to buy everything I need."

Shafiullah is one of 250,000 Pakistanis who suffer from tuberculosis each year. Healthcare for tuberculosis, and other health conditions, has been disrupted for many people due to the unprecedented flooding that has destroyed and damaged more than 400 health facilities and uprooted communities across the country.

To deliver healthcare to people like Shafiullah and his family, multiple healthcare providers are delivering a wide range of services. Mobile medical teams visit people in camps, or health facilities are set up in settlements where large numbers of people have been forced to move to. Medicines are being provided to health facilities, many of which are overcrowded by both routine and emergency health conditions.

One of Shafiullah's sons, 8-year-old Zaher Ahmed, is among the almost 560,000 people who have been treated for diarrhoea since the flood crisis started on 29 July and 29 August.

"I feel better now, but for some days I felt weak and ill," says Zaher in a barely audible voice. "I just want to go home."