ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani health officials on Thursday reported an outbreak of waterborne diseases in areas hit by recent record-breaking flooding, as authorities stepped up efforts to ensure the provision of clean drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people who lost their homes in the disaster.
The U.N. children's agency said more than 3 million children were in need of humanitarian assistance and stood at heightened risk of diseases, drowning and malnutrition due to the most severe flooding in Pakistan's recent history.
Diarrhea, skin diseases and eye infections are spreading at relief camps set up by the government across the country. Over 90,000 diarrhea cases were reported from one of the worst-hit provinces, Sindh, in the past 24 hours, according to a report released by the health officials. But the illnesses were also reported from other flood-hit areas.
The grim updates came a day after Pakistan and the World Health Organization raised concern over the spread of waterborne diseases among flood victims. Pakistan blames climate change for unusually early and heavy monsoon rains, which since June have caused flash floods that have killed 1,191 people and affected 33 million people. About a million homes have also been damaged or destroyed.
Floodwaters continued to recede in most of the country, but many districts in southern Sindh province remained underwater, forcing displaced people to stay at donated camps.
Among those flood victims staying at a relief camp in the district of Shikarpur in Sindh was Mundam Ali, 21, who is seven months pregnant. She said she has a backache and cough.
Ramesh Kumar, a medical doctor in Shikarpur, said he treated scores of flood victims and most of them had waterborne diseases.
Nearly half a million flood displaced are living in relief camps. In Sindh province, thousands of medical camps have been set up in flood-stricken areas to treat victims, said Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, the provincial health minister. Mobile medical units have also been deployed. The World Health Organization says it is increasing surveillance for acute diarrhea, cholera and other communicable diseases and providing medical supplies to health facilities.
Doctors say initially they were seeing mostly patients traumatized by the flooding, but are now treating thousands of people suffering from diarrhea, skin infections and other waterborne ailments.
Farah Naureen, the director for Pakistan at international aid agency Mercy Corps, said waterborne diseases were increasing at a faster pace among displaced people in flood-hit areas. In a statement, she said other than infectious diseases, the health of women was of particular importance.
Information for this article was contributed by Muhammad Farooq of The Associated Press.