November 17, 2022
Environmental Health Risks in the Philippines
This past summer, the global community has witnessed extreme climate change all across the globe. Intense and long-lasting heat waves have left parts of Europe in a drought, with large-scale fires breaking out in several regions. However, this pales in comparison to what Pakistan has endured these past few months.
While countries like China, the United States, India and Russia are the biggest polluters, it is often vulnerable countries, like Pakistan, that experience the biggest climate backlash. To begin, Pakistan experienced a record-breaking heatwave during March, which resulted in drought across several regions in Pakistan, further damaging crops and drying up vital rivers and lakes. The added danger of droughts is that they cause the ground to harden, preventing soil from readily absorbing water. As the monsoon season began in July, the conditions of the land created the prime environment to lead to extreme flooding.
This was further coupled by an unprecedented monsoon season, with a 30 year record-breaking rain, coupled with intense melting of glacial lakes that further flooded rivers and inundated 80% of the country. “Usually, there are three or four cycles of monsoons, here we are up to seven to eight. The cumulative effect is totally devastating,” notes David Annequin, head of the emergency unit of Doctors of the World. While the numbers are expected to be much higher, the cost of this flood is already devastating. Over 1,200 are reported dead and 3,500 are injured, with nearly 33 million people affected by the floods. A million homes have been destroyed and over 6.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, today.
Unfortunately, more rain and further flooding is predicted, as the monsoon season has not yet come to an end. With flooding, a whole array of problems will surely arise like famine, lack of shelter, an overwhelmed healthcare system, and water/mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, cholera and dysentery. Pakistan has appealed for international assistance and declared a state of emergency on August 26 to deal with the disaster. It is vital that the international community respond and coordinate with Pakistan to effectively help the populations affected.
UNOCHA has provided a rapid assessment of the most crucial needs within the health sector in Pakistan, in order to properly assist the population there.
1- Evaluation of the health services impacted, and identifying key priority areas that require response, including for delivery of routine and emergency health services.
2- Essential medicines and equipment to set up emergency triage, medical tents, mosquito nets, beds, sanitizer, facemasks, etc.
3- Mitigate the risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases, especially in camps and where WASH facilities have been damaged.
4- Prevention of transmission of diseases in camps and communities through information and hygiene campaigns in coordination with the WASH cluster.
5- Mental health and psychosocial impact of losses including human lives, animals, property and livelihoods.
Given the severity of the crisis and its long-term implications, it is clear that this humanitarian disaster will not be over in 2 months time, rather a long-term sustainable plan must be developed among the national and international community.
Doctors of the World (DoTW) has been present in Pakistan since 1996 and will therefore reorient its activities to provide emergency medical aid in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). With program funding from ECHO, DoTW will operate from its base in Peshawar, in the north-west of the country, where mobile clinics will be deployed in several districts to reach the populations affected by the floods and displaced populations. “We are also going to aid staff by providing medicines and supporting clinics and hospitals to help them cope with the influx of displaced people in need,” explains David Annequin. Since August 28. DoTW organized 6 medical clinics in which 939 people received health services.
We further propose a 6-month intervention to meet the immediate health needs of the most vulnerable populations affected by the floods in KP as well as support the recovery efforts of KPs Ministry of Health (MoH). Our proposed response strategy focuses on two key areas of intervention.
Upon KPs MoH request, DoTW will support its response in the most affected districts of the KP province: lowlands where villages and fields have been flooded. As there are currently no major health agencies on the ground at the moment, DoTW will focus to fill this gap by deploying a medical team to aid MoH efforts through drug supplies and technical support for activities implementation (triage at hospital level and mobile clinics). The DoTW team will redirect its efforts within Charsaddah, Nowshera and Chitral districts through 2 or 3 mobile clinics composed of regular program staff. The goal will be to reach the persons displaced by the disaster and complement MoH response in the area.
While Doctors of the World is ready to commit its time and resources to provide necessary aid to those impacted by the floods in Pakistan, it is crucial that the global community coordinates its resources and funding to develop a sufficient program that will support Pakistan and its people. The gaps to provide lifesaving and critical support can be effectively filled with humanitarian funding channeled through INGOs/NNGOs that have operational capacity and on ground presence across flood affected areas in Pakistan.
The situation in Pakistan is a clear result of the devastating effects of climate change that are occurring across the globe. Climate disasters are readily increasing every year, with new record-breaking storms, weather, and more. It is vital that as a global community, we begin to address the way we treat our planet. Our efforts must focus on building a more sustainable and green future. However, the effects of climate change will continue over the coming years, and we must learn to prepare and mitigate these disasters. Working together, responding as a community, can help us build resilience and ensure that no one is left behind.