Reports indicate that the hardships from Pakistan’s earlier monsoon floods have been exacerbated by the onslaught of winter. The floods impacted 20 million of Pakistan’s population of just over 180 million people. As the temperature dips, hundreds of thousands of displaced children and adults are susceptible to pneumonia and other cold-related diseases. According to professor Jamal Raza, Director of the National Institute of Child Health (Pakistan), the number of flood victims with cold-related illnesses could rise to almost double the current count, particularly among children.
Many are living in non-winterized tents and there are shortages of dry firewood and other materials, such as adequate clothing, needed to create warmth. Further, many of the flood-ravaged areas from this year’s monsoon remain covered in water and millions of people are still displaced. Many are farmers left with no source of livelihood as their fields are still flooded, and food distribution is difficult to carry out under the circumstances.
Raza said that it will be an uphill battle to save as many children as possible because they are malnourished and have experienced a great deal of weight-loss due to poor diet. Moreover, their capability for immunity is very low and they are susceptible to a wide range of respiratory diseases. There is an urgent need for blankets, quilts and better shelter to fight the cold, as well as provisions for the obvious nutritional and medical needs.
Reports out of Pakistan indicate a further danger caused by the floods: the release of stored toxic chemicals into the floodwaters. An article in New Scientist reports that the floods released an estimated 3,000 tons of toxic chemicals into the environment. The chemicals, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), include several insect repellents, such as dichloro-diphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). Many of the chemicals do not biodegrade and are purportedly linked to hormonal, developmental and reproductive disorders. Pakistan’s floods have awakened some nations and scientists to this ongoing threat as changes in weather patterns become more evident.