Heavy floods in Sindh province of Pakistan during summer 2011 left an area almost the size of New Jersey under water. Coming less than a year after even more devastating floods in 2010, more than 5 million people were affected, many of them children. The health consequences of this crisis were severe, as stagnant water and a shortage of clean drinking water led to sharp increases in malaria infections, diarrhea cases and other water-related diseases.
Malnutrition was already a serious issue in this area of Pakistan – the UN estimates that almost one quarter of children under-five are malnourished while six percent are severely underfed. As families were forced out of their homes and millions of acres of farmland submerged, the threat of a hunger crisis in Sindh was very real.
With support from the European Commission (ECHO), International Medical Corps has been delivering emergency primary healthcare, mental health and nutrition support to people affected by the flooding in Sindh. Since February 2012, our 20 medical teams have provided antenatal care to more than 10,000 pregnant women, conducted 140,000 patient consultations and treated more than 5,400 people for malaria. We also treated more than 8,000 children for diarrhea, which is particularly dangerous for malnourished children as their bodies are unable to retain nutrients in their food, causing death extremely quickly. International Medical Corps’ nutrition experts treated more than 7,000 malnourished children, including 1,300 with the most severe forms of malnutrition.
In many remote locations in Sindh Province, International Medical Corps clinics are the only health facilities for many miles. During June 2012, our medical team in the Tando Muhammad Khan District provided emergency first aid to six people severely injured in a road traffic accident, stopping their bleeding and dressing wounds. As the only other facility in the area was the District Hospital, more than 31 miles from the accident site, the injuries might have proved fatal without the immediate emergency response by International Medical Corps’ team.
The final component of our response to the 2011 Sindh floods was to address the mental health consequences of the disaster. Our teams of mental health specialists provided training to local Pakistani health workers in psychological first aid and how to identify signs of serious mental health issues. This allowed doctors and nurses to provide appropriate psychological assistance to those traumatized by the disaster while people were visiting health centers for other treatment. The approach also ensures that those with more serious mental health conditions are referred for proper treatment by trained professionals.