Dozens of medical teams have been sent to north-west Pakistan in the hope of preventing a massive outbreak of disease caused by the worst floods in the country’s history.
The disaster has already killed up to 1,500 people.
The government has deployed thousands of rescue workers who have saved an estimated 28,000 people and distributed basic food items. But the scale of the disaster is so vast that many residents said it seems like officials are doing nothing.
Sohail Altaf, the top medical official in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, said today: “To avert the looming threat of spread of waterborne diseases, especially cholera, we have dispatched dozens of mobile medical teams in the affected districts.”
The flooding comes at a time when the weak and unpopular Pakistani government is already struggling to cope with a faltering economy and a war against Taliban militants that has killed thousands of people in the past few years.
The death toll from the disaster has ranged from about 870 provided by the prime minister’s office to 1,100 given by disaster management officials in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa who warned that it could go even higher.
Pakistan’s international partners have tried to bolster the government’s response by offering millions of dollars in emergency aid.
Representatives from a charity allegedly linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group distributed food and offered medical services yesterday to victims in the town of Charsada.
“We are reaching people at their doorsteps and in the streets, especially women and children who are stuck in their homes,” said an activist with the Falah-e-Insaniat charity who would identify himself only by his first name, Saqib.
With suspected ties to al-Qaida, Lashkar-e-Taiba has been blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed 166 people, and the US military has said the group has stepped up activity in Afghanistan as well.
Pakistani militant groups often attack government ineffectiveness as a way to build support, a message likely to resonate with many in the north-west who have criticised the official flood response.
The UN has estimated that a million people nationwide have been affected by the floods.
Thousands of people remained trapped today and authorities said 43 military helicopters and 100 boats had been deployed to try to save them.
The impact of the floods could be especially difficult in the Swat Valley, where residents were still trying to recover from a major battle between Taliban and the army last spring that caused widespread destruction and drove nearly two million people from their homes.
The floods wrecked many villages in Swat, destroying people’s houses, shops, vehicles and crops.