Disease Epidemic Threatens Pakistan as Floodwaters Rage

The threat of waterborne disease is rising in Pakistan as the nation's worst floodwaters in history continue to rage.

According to relief workers, more people, especially children, have been suffering from diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, malaria and dengue fever. The effects have been compounded by a lack of clean water, food, and medication.

"If we don't act fast enough, we will soon see a serious wave of death, and the toll will be many times higher than that caused by the actual floods," said Dr. Guido Sabatinelli, representative of the World Health Organization in Pakistan.

Martin Mogwanja, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan, said: "As in any disaster situation, children are among the most vulnerable. We cannot allow this catastrophe to inflict such a heavy toll on our next generation."

The floods, which began in late July, have affected an estimated 20 million Pakistanis so far, according to the country's government. They have deluged an area of land the size of Italy, killed over 2,000 people, and left some 2 million homeless.

Billions of dollars of crops, livestock, and infrastructure have been swept away, along with the entire livelihoods of many Pakistanis, some of whom have criticized the government for an inadequate response.

President Asif Ali Zardari in particular has been under fire for going ahead plans to visit Europe as the disaster began to unfold.

Some observers are wary that the unrest could lead to conflict , similar to the one that occurred in 1971, a year after the country was hit by a severe cyclone. The war led to East Pakistan seceding from the nation to become Bangladesh.

Others see a massive rebuilding project on the horizon that could potentially be more expensive than the one going on in Haiti.

Pakistan's High Commissioner to Britain Wajid Shamsul Hasan estimates that reconstruction could cost as much as $15 billion, one billion more than what Haitian officials have requested for their country.

"It will take at least five years," Hasan told Reuters. "These floods have really dislocated everything," he added.

Meanwhile, funding for the relief effort remains lethargic, with less than 30 percent of the United Nations' $460 million appeal currently filled.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during a visit to Pakistan on Sunday, emphasized the urgency of the situation.

"These unprecedented floods demand unprecedented assistance," Ban said. "I pledge my commitment and the support of the UN through this difficult period and on every step of the long road ahead.

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