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Friday, June 19, 2009

World Refugee Day: Pakistan IDPs Face Second Crisis

On World Refugee Day, a second crisis looms over more than 3 million displaced people in Pakistan as a severe shortage of sanitation facilities has led to outbreaks of disease.

Unsanitary living conditions have caused waterborne diseases and skin conditions to spread quickly amongst the displaced populations and local communities. Islamic Relief health teams have noted frequent cases of diarrhea, scabies, and malaria, all of which can be deadly, especially for young children.

Islamic Relief’s assessments of schools and homes where displaced people are sheltering have revealed that around 60 percent have no sanitation facilities or are in urgent need of repair. In almost half of these schools and houses water systems also need to be built or repaired.

One school in Khairabad houses more than 450 displaced people, yet Islamic Relief engineers did not find a single working restroom. At another school in Gul Bahar, displaced families had no source of water.

Islamic Relief aid worker Sultan Mahmood said:

“In the schools and houses I have visited nearly every family has a member suffering from diarrhoea or scabies as a result of poor sanitation facilities and unhygienic living conditions. I have seen up to 20 people sharing one small room, and with so many people living so close to each other these diseases are spreading fast.”

Islamic Relief health teams are concerned that as the monsoon season approaches these problems will get considerably worse. Every year the monsoon floods the region causing rates of malaria and waterborne diseases to soar. This year, with the influx of so many extra people, the impact is likely to be much more severe.

Islamic Relief is constructing restrooms, washing areas, hand pumps, and is carrying out hygiene awareness sessions in schools and households sheltering displaced people in Mardan District. We are also providing free healthcare at local health centers through mobile health teams. These services are helping displaced people and the local community in 26 villages.
Jerome Akram, Islamic Relief’s Worldwide Head of Programs, said:

“...Although most of the displaced people are not living in tents in camps, they are still facing very real difficulties, not least the serious health concerns we are witnessing.”

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