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Fear of disease looms over flood-hit Pak

After being hit by one of the worst floods in decades, Pakistan is now bracing for a disease outbreak of dangerous proportions, aid agencies said on Friday.

world Updated: Aug 14, 2010 01:58 IST

After being hit by one of the worst floods in decades, Pakistan is now bracing for a disease outbreak of dangerous proportions, aid agencies said on Friday. This new development has been hindering already complicated relief efforts as desperation grows.

The floods, triggered by torrential monsoon downpours, have engulfed Pakistan's Indus river basin, killing more than 1,600 people, forcing two million from their homes and disrupting the lives of about 14 million people, or 8 per cent of the population. A health crisis would tax aid agencies already facing huge logistical challenges.

The UN is increasingly worried about water-borne diseases. There have been 36,000 suspected cases of potentially fatal acute watery diarrhoea reported so far. “This is a growing concern. So, we are responding with all kinds of preventative as well as curative medication for outbreaks,” said Maurizio Giuliano, the UN humanitarian operation spokesman.

Cholera would create another major crisis. Some officials say there are indications that it may have already broken out.

The United Nations appealed for $459 million in emergency aid and warned of a new wave of deaths if help didn’t arrive soon. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to visit Pakistan over the weekend.

‘Won’t divert forces from militant fight’

Pakistan’s army has taken the lead in rescue efforts after the worst floods in decades, but will not divert forces from the battle against Islamist militants, officials said on Friday. The army has deployed about 60,000 troops for rescue and relief operations out of a force of about 5.50 lakh soldiers. “The involvement of our troops in relief activities will have no impact on our fight against militants,” said military spoke-sman Major-General Athar Abbas.