Balochistan faces specter of disease as floods ravage Pakistan

The worst floods in Pakistan’s history are now bringing various diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dengue and malaria to the people. Lack of clean drinking water also increases the burden of disease across the country.

Nearly half of the country is flooded because the rivers overflow their beds. The floods hit the country exactly when Pakistan’s economy is on the brink of bankruptcy and foreign exchange reserves are barely sufficient to sustain a month’s imports.

The death toll from the floods has reached 1,300. International aid is pouring in from China, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey with international aid agencies on the ground to help the embattled government of Shehbaz Sharif to overcome the crisis.

Balochistan and Sindh, Pakistan’s most important provinces in terms of resource and revenue generation, are the most affected.

The Baluchistan government even postponed its anti-polio campaign for the second time due to the floods. It was first postponed to August 29 and then again to September 5. A new date has not yet been announced.

Doctors Without Borders said in a statement that in Balochistan, 31 out of 33 districts have been badly affected. “MSF teams, including staff whose homes were flooded, responded quickly to provide primary health care to people displaced by the disaster. We provided assistance to people gathered along the roads, in schools and other makeshift shelters,” MSF said.

Since the start of the rains in June, at least 295 people have been killed and 1.3 million people have been displaced in Balochistan. The Balochistan government on Wednesday declared 32 of the total 34 districts “affected by the calamity”.

The Baloch people, who are waging a seven-decade-old nationalist struggle against Pakistan, have condemned the country for neglect over the years. In a WhatsApp interview, one of the Baloch activists told India Narrative that “27 districts have been totally washed away by the floods. People have no choice but to spend their lives in the open air with insufficient food and clothing”.

He added that Balochistan had lost more than 600 schools due to the floods.

Talking about the army providing relief after the floods in Balochistan, he said the Pakistani army continues its operations against Baloch civilians especially after the Pakistani army helicopter crash in Lasbela area in Balochistan last month.

The activist added, “On August 25, 2022, the so-called Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) raided a house in Mastung Padang abad Balochistan with heavy weapons, killing two brothers and abducting eight members of the same family. Among those abducted, one is the former director of Professor Saleh Muhammad Shad of Degree College Mastung, lawyer Ata Ullah Baloch, a member of the Mastung Bar Association”.

Criticizing Pakistan’s response to the floods, he said all federal governments in Islamabad viewed “Baluchistan as a hen laying golden eggs for Pakistan and its military”. He alleged that, as in the past, “the government of Pakistan is trying to seize and misappropriate international donations that are given to flood victims in Balochistan. Instead of helping flood victims and providing them with food and shelter, the governments of Pakistan and Balochistan are waiting for handouts to bail out their near-failing economy.”

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Valerie J. Wallis