Cholera confirmed as independence day celebrations scrapped
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The United Nations confirmed the first case of cholera in flood-hit Pakistan on Saturday. At least one case of the water borne disease was identified by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Mingora, the main town in north western district of Swat.
"Clearly of course diarrhoea, an easy to treat illness, is a real problem right now," Peter Kessler, from the UN Refugee Agency, told RFI. "When people lack any kind water to drink, it makes it even hard to recover from bad diarrhoea. And indeed tens of tens of thousands of people are being stricken."
Cholera is an acute infestinal infection which causes watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if not treated.
"There has been at least one cholera confirmed case in Mingora," Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesperson for OCHA , told the AFP news agency.
Areas are still underwater, people are still crowded on roadsides, atop dikes and canals,
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in the country later on Saturday to discuss relief efforts.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Tousuf Raza Gilani told the nation that more than 10 per cent of the country 170 million people had been affected.
“I would appeal to the world community to extend a helping hand to fight this calamity,” he said in a televised address.
The PM said billion of dollars of standing crops and food in storage had been destroyed, causing a “colossal loss to [the] national economy”.
“Outbreak of epidemics in the flood-hit areas is a serious threat, which can further compound the already grave situation,” said Gilani.
"It’s a very dangerous mix of climate, of rainy weather, hot sun and of course the Ramadan period, when many people are fasting and could be weaker than normal," says Kessler, from Islamabad.
Saturday’s independence day celebrations marking Pakistan’s 1947 break from British colonial rule have been scrapped by President Asif Ali Zardari, who arrived in Nowshera to see flooded areas and visit a briefing on the disaster.
“The best way to celebrate this day is to reach out to the victims of the natural disaster, heal their wounds and help them to help themselves,” Zardari said in his independence day message.
“I salute the courage and heroism of flood victims and assure them that the government will do everything possible to alleviate their suffering,” he added.
The death toll from the floods stands at 1,600, according to the UN. Two million people are in need of emergency shelter and six million are dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive.
Over the next 24 hours the Pakistan Meteorological Department predicts scattered thundershowers with isolated heavy rain fall expected in upper Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa, Upper Punjab including Islamabad, Bahawalpur division, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir.
"Even today, the Islamabad area has been by massive rainstorms. This will not help the situation," says Kessler.