Fears for babies born in Pakistan’s devastating floods

The family of eight built their shelter with furniture and fabric sheets, all they could salvage from their flooded home in the village of Rijepur, near Khairpur Nathan Shah, Sindh province, in the South West.

Holding her 24-day-old baby Shumaila, Solangi said she was worried about her newborn baby, whom she took from the hospital as the rain fell because she couldn’t afford to pay his medications. Now she and her other five children are hungry, sick and wary of snakes that are also looking for food and higher ground. Her husband, a daily wage earner, is unable to work.

“Everyone who could afford it has left this village, but we are still here because we can’t afford to go anywhere. It’s about money,” she said. declared. “We are helpless people. I am also sick and this is the third month I have had a fever and a throat infection. We can’t even afford medicine.”

About 10 percent of the country’s health facilities have been damaged by the floods, the WHO representative in Pakistan, Dr Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala, said on Monday. He said he was particularly concerned about the 1.2 million pregnant women who are among the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Solangi may have survived the birth of her baby, but she knows that a strip of land between floodwaters is no place for a baby. Although she said she felt safer there than at a nearby relief camp which is only accessible by boat.

“There is nothing in the relief camp,” she said. “People are helpless. They don’t give people anything. It’s better to live here,” she said.

“Malaria of epidemic proportions”

Across Pakistan, others like Solangi are surviving on rations left behind by aid workers waiting for the waters to recede. A dozen families are crammed with Solangi on the strip of land which in some places is only 15 feet, or less than five meters wide.

Flies swarm around children’s faces while they sleep, and it’s hard to avoid mosquitoes that carry the threat of malaria, which can cause fever, flu-like symptoms and sometimes death.

Access to food and clean water is hard to come by in Khairpur Nathan Shah, Sindh province.

“A lady came here and promised we would be provided with mosquito nets but she never came back,” Solangi said. “I’m still waiting for that. They also registered my name but she didn’t come back.”

Mahipala said the WHO saw “malaria of epidemic proportions” and cases of typhoid and infections of the skin, eyes and respiratory tract were becoming more common.

“We are concerned that the situation will worsen with the greater humanitarian and public health impact, especially in Sindh province, as water moves south of the country,” he said. .

The WHO estimates that around 634,000 people live in IDP camps, but the number could be higher as some areas are too difficult to access.

The water is so high that locals use boats to move around the village in search of food and other supplies.

“We are poor and cannot leave this area”

On the strip of land, the children mingle with the families of breeders saved from the flood, and have fun wading in the water which now covers their small village.

Mai Haleema, 70, watches over them, but especially when they sleep. She fears that the youngest children will forget where they are and accidentally fall into the water that is a few feet from their bed.

Mai Haleema watches over a boy as he sleeps on September 5, 2022.

“We keep our eyes on our children after the sun goes down. They might fall into the water believing if they were living in their old house. We have to take care of them,” Haleema said.

Haleema told CNN she has witnessed the harsh monsoon season in Pakistan throughout her life, but it is one of the worst.

Pakistan is on the frontline of the climate crisis, facing a series of extreme weather events in recent months, ranging from record heat waves to destructive floods.

“This region has been hit by floods four times in my life, but I remember three of them. But this time the heavy rains made it worse. The water level was not that high in the past,” Haleema said.

She worries about the future, but doesn’t think too much about her damaged house. “There’s no point in crying now,” she said.

Houses in the village of Mai Haleema were inundated by floodwaters.

She and Solangi are more worried about the children and how they will survive this ordeal.

“We need to save food for our children,” Haleema said. “God can help us.”

Solangi also hopes for divine intervention to save them from a disaster no one saw coming.

“God is our saviour. I don’t feel well,” she said. “My children are also sick. I have to fetch water.”

Hira Humayun of CNN in Atlanta contributed reporting.

Comments are closed.