Ian Woolverton, Save the Children Media Manager
Sukkur District, Pakistan
Friday, August 27, 2010
I had to choke back tears as I watched a doctor supported by Save the Children give Ramzan, a 2-year-old boy, fluids in a feverous attempt to reverse the devastating effects of severe dehydration.
Ramzan’s mother, Hajra, looked on anxiously as the doctor explained that she must help her son drink electrolytes to replace lost fluids.
Make no mistake, Ramzan is gravely ill. He has reached a dangerous level of dehydration brought on by watery diarrhea. No wonder. For the last fifteen days mother and child have lived on a baking concrete floor in one of the hundreds of camps that have sprung up in Sukkur district.
Before floodwaters broke the banks of the River Indus, Ramzan lived with his eleven brothers and sisters in Jacobabad. Now they are destitute and face an uncertain future.
At the camp Dr. Sheikh impressed upon me his concerns for a second wave of disaster — an outbreak of flood-related illnesses like diarrhea, malaria and skin infections.
These types of preventable but communicable conditions send shivers down the spine. With still pools of water visible in most camps, reported cases of malaria are rising.
Biggest killer of children
But watery diarrhea concerns us most. It robs the body of fluids, which can lead to heat stroke, kidney failure and death.
The sad truth: diarrhea is the biggest killer of children under the age of five. Yet low-tech, low-cost solutions like packets of oral rehydration salts can help prevent children from becoming dangerously dehydrated.
In many cases families are sourcing water from stagnant pools, which often contain human and animal waste. This might sound ghastly, but what would you do if your son or daughter were desperately thirsty and drifting in and out of consciousness? Might you accept the risks of drinking dirty water in the hope of alleviating the suffering of your child?
Factor in the stifling heat — temperatures soars high into the forties — and drinking contaminated water might not seem such a bad idea. There’s a cruel irony at play in flood-affected Pakistan. Despite being swamped by billions of gallons of water, children and families cannot get enough safe water.