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Pakistan Emergency Response: Direct Relief International Coordinating With Local Partners as Rescue Efforts Continue

Waterborne Diseases Primary Health Concern for the Displaced

Santa Barbara, CA, August 4, 2010—Direct Relief International is coordinating response efforts with partners in Pakistan to help the millions of people displaced by extreme flooding throughout the country. Partners are echoing news reports that the northwestern region has been hit particularly hard, destroying bridges and cutting off villages that are each home to tens of thousands of people.

“It’s a horrible situation,” reports Dr. Bakht Sarwar, Medical Director of the Pakistan Institute of Prosthetic and Orthotic Sciences (PIPOS), one of the key local health providers Direct Relief is working with to assess emergency medical needs in Pakistan.

“Peshawar has been completely cut off from the rest of the country for four days. I tried and managed yesterday to go to village by foot, boat, and car to see the situation with my own eyes. It’s water, water everywhere…I want to help however I can. Once again, thank you for your concern and help.” said Dr. Sarwar.

Broken sanitation systems as well as standing and contaminated water pose the biggest health threats during flood events. The World Health Organization (WHO) and local health ministers have named waterborne diseases—including diarrhea, typhoid, malaria, cholera, and infections of the skin and eyes—as health concerns for people affected by the floods in Pakistan.

WHO) reports that at least 39 health facilities have been destroyed, with tons of medicines lost, and that 46 of Pakistan’s 135 districts have been affected by the flooding. According to the WHO, “there is a tremendous need for more medical and related materials to treat people affected by the humanitarian emergency…”

“Our hearts go out to the people and families affected by this major emergency, and to our dedicated local health partners who are doing everything they can to save and treat people under these conditions” said Brett Williams, Direct Relief International’s Director of Emergency Response. “We are committed to supporting these organizations who will need major material aid to prevent the worst case health scenarios of flooding disasters, and to also provide the life-saving medical services for chronic conditions and for family health that would otherwise be impossible at this time.”

Williams led the Direct Relief team in its major response to the 2005 Pakistan earthquake.

Direct Relief’s longtime partner in Pakistan, the American Refugee Committee (ARC), reports that its team is gearing up for a response and has sent mobile health units to assist marooned basic health units in Swat, located about 100 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city.

Williams is in contact with ARC’s senior program coordinator in Pakistan to help facilitate medical aid and identify specific needs from Direct Relief’s standing inventory.

The United Nations estimates that a million people across Pakistan have been affected by the floods, while reported deaths range from 1,100 to 3,000 and more heavy rains are forecast. Direct Relief will continue to stay in close contact with partners in the country responding to this widespread emergency to assist in the most appropriate, targeted way possible.

About Direct Relief International

Founded in 1948, Direct Relief is a Santa Barbara, California-based nonprofit organization focused on improving quality of life by bringing critically needed medicines and supplies to local healthcare providers worldwide. Direct Relief has provided more than $1 billion in privately funded humanitarian aid since 2000, including more than $200 million in assistance in the United States. It has earned a fundraising efficiency score of 99 percent or better from Forbes for the past eight years, and is ranked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as California’s largest international nonprofit organization based on private support. For more information, please visit www.DirectRelief.org.

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