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Dr. Rafi Ahmed, M.D. and his team from CDRS Pakistan/Shine Humanity recently returned from an AmeriCares-supported medical mission to help flood survivors in Pakistan. AmeriCares donates medicines and medical supplies to health care professionals providing charitable medical care to impoverished communities around the world. Dr. Ahmed shared news and reflections from mobile health clinics serving families forced from their homes by unrelenting floods.
As our flight approached Sukkur Airport; we saw the destruction caused by the Indus River. Hundreds of acres of land were submerged by the floods and whole villages ruined by the unrelenting water.
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Once we landed, we were greeted by a mobile medical relief unit. We unloaded our medical relief supplies, including essential antibiotics provided by AmeriCares, and began our trip into heavily flooded areas. As we made our way toward communities of families displaced by flooding, we could see hundreds of people in tents and makeshift shelters lining the roads.
We met up with our partners at the Indus Resource Centre (IRC) to assist with medical relief operations throughout the hard hit district of Khairpur, where more than 12,000 homes were destroyed and over 45,000 acres of crops were lost. Nearly 200,000 men, women and children were displaced by the flooding.
Our essential focus was to care for people who had yet to receive any medical assistance. As we made our way out of city, we could see acres and acres of land submerged under water. We were most concerned that people in the countryside were living in makeshift camps with no access to proper sanitation or clean water. The lack of basic hygienic conditions was quite evident as we saw the victims of the flood using the same stagnant flood water for drinking, bathing, human and animal waste, and washing livestock.
We set up our camps on high ground bordering the low lying flooded areas. All of our mobile medical camps were created in makeshift shelters.
Once news of our arrival spread through these makeshift camps, hundreds of individuals inundated our medical camps. Almost all of the flood victims stated that we were the first medical team they had seen since the devastating floods began. The majority of the patients were women and children whose overall health and nutrition had been poor to begin with. Now after the flooding, their medical problems became much worse. Additionally, in the intense heat and without any proper shelter, most of the patients we saw were in some state of dehydration.
Our team stressed the importance of clean water and we educated our patients on utilizing water purification tablets, using the sunlight’s UV rays for purification, or boiling water before drinking.
We reviewed the importance of hygiene, including bathing in clean water and not contaminating bath or drinking water with waste. In regard to the medical situation, it was quite evident that the individuals in these camps were suffering from not only nature’s wrath but disease as well.
In our first camp we saw nearly 90 people, almost half of them children. The major complaints included severe dehydration, weakness, fever, diarrhea, dysentery, gastroenteritis, and respiratory illness. In addition to treating patients with medicines to fight fever, infections and pain, we also provided them with an abundance of Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) packets and water purification tablets to help combat dehydration.
One particular case is difficult for me to forget: a lethargic infant who was barely moving and appeared severely dehydrated. After seeing the severity of the case, our team acted quickly and provided acute medical care. In addition we educated the mother of the child on necessary care and referred her to the local government hospital for ongoing therapy.
As we continued work in our mobile medical camps, our patient numbers continued to increase. In the past few days, we have seen approximately 100-200 patients per day with an all time high of 357 on one particularly busy day. Our patients continued to be mostly women and children suffering from dehydration, presumed malaria, respiratory infections, dysentery, diarrhea rashes and injuries. . We also continued to treat acute medical issues and provided hygiene and safe water education.
The situation in Pakistan is extremely dire. There is great concern for the spread of disease in camps that lack basic sanitation including clean water and proper latrines. The CDRS Pakistan/ Shine Humanity forward operating mobile medical camp has been on the frontlines of treating the acute medical conditions of families affected by flooding and has stressed proper hygiene to prevent disease and malnutrition. Every time our camp has been established in a neglected area, we have been warmly received by the destitute populations, and the community’s gratitude to our medical team has been evident in their prayers for our well being. Our goal in the upcoming days is to continue to work closely with our partners and continue to focus on treating these needy underserved populations.