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Pakistan Floods Facts and Figures

Ban Ki Moon visited Pakistan over the weekend.  The normally soft spoken Sec Gen tried to rouse the international community into action: 

“This has been a heart-wrenching day, and I will never forget the destruction and suffering that I have witnessed”, said Mr. Ban. “I have visited the scenes of many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this. The scale is so large: so many people, in so many places, in so much need…”I am also here to send a message to the world: these unprecedented floods demand unprecedented assistance”, said the Secretary-General. “I pledge my commitment and the support of the United Nations through this difficult period and on every step of the long road ahead”.

As we enter the third week of Pakistan’s biblical floods, here is where we stand:

20 million people affected. This is the government’s latest figure, which the UN works off of.  To be “affected” means to somehow be in need of humanitarian assistance because of the flooding.

As of Saturday the official death toll was 1,384, with 1,680 people reported as injured.  A new estimate will likely be released today.

Over 722,000 houses damaged or destroyed.  As flood waters approached, over 300,000 people were evacuated from Sindh, a province in south eastern Pakistan.   

6 million people do not have access to clean water.  3.5 million children are at risk of contracting deadly water-born diseases, like diarrhea. From the New York Times:

There was a first wave of deaths caused by the floods themselves,” [OCHA coordinator] Mr. Giuliano said. “But if we don’t act soon enough there will be a second wave of deaths caused by a combination of lack of clean water, food shortages and water-borne and vector-borne diseases.”

He said as many as six million people were at risk of diseases including diarrhea-related illnesses and dysentery, typhoid and forms of hepatitis.

“We may be close to seeing this second wave of death,” he said. “The picture is a gruesome one.”

Already, water born diseases are taking their toll. This from the World Health Organization:

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, acute diarrhoea (AD) accounted for 3 807 (17%) of the total patient visits in all age groups and is the leading cause of morbidity in the flood affected districts. Acute respiratory tract infections (both upper and lower) were recorded in 3 255 (15%) patient visits. Skin infections were reported in 4 122 (19%) of the patients…In Baluchistan, the leading causes of morbidity are diarrhea, and scabies. In Sindh, Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) was the leading cause of consultations followed by skin infection and acute diarrhea. Suspected cases treated for malaria are rising as more areas with stagnant waters emerge.

Also from OCHA, the agriculture sector is taking a huge hit:

Over 3.2 million hectares of standing crops, representing 16% of the cultivatable area, have so far been damaged or lost across Baluchistan, KPK, Punjab and Sindh, including  maize, cotton, rice, sugar cane, fruit orchards and vegetables.  Over 200,000 livestock have been lost, in  addition to up to 100% poultry losses in some districts.  Over 725,000 medium and large animals in KPK  alone require emergency feed and veterinary support.

Food is also in short supply. 6 million people are in need of food assistance. Women are feeling the brunt of it.  One UN assessment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province found: “37% of women in households surveyed were consuming less food than men, while 50% of households reported having no food for an entire day.”

Last week the UN asked for $460 million to fund an emergency response. So far, donors have contributed or pledged $148 million, or 32% of the total.   The top donors are the United States ($75,621,599), the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund,($26,595,962) The United Kingdom ( $40,235,085 ) Denmark ( 26,595,962 ) and Private individuals and organzations ($10,510,184).

More updates soon.


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The End of Antibiotics?

I have been avoiding the writing of this blog post because it scares me. We could lose all our effective antibiotics in the next decade. A drug-resistant bacterial strain is spreading fast and globally and as a result we could be looking at the post-antibiotic era.

An article in the Lancet reports that a new resistant gene has been isolated. Bacteria with this gene are resistant to the most powerful class of antibiotics, and the gene passes easily from one kind of bacteria to another. That means that more and more kinds of bacteria will become resistant. The resistant gene is widespread right now in India, and it’s spreading globally because of medical tourism and regular travel.


The Guardian global health blog interviewed the lead author of the paper, and provides this grim quote:

“This is potentially the end. There are no antibiotics in the pipeline that have activity against NDM 1-producing enterobacteriaceae. We have a bleak window of maybe 10 years, where we are going to have to use the antibiotics we have very wisely, but also grapple with the reality that we have nothing to treat these infections with.”

I can barely even process this. The end of antibiotics? But it’s true. We don’t have any antibiotics that are effective against this kind of resistance. And the speed with which the gene travels means that sooner or later, almost all bacteria are going to acquire this gene. That means all tuberculosis is drug resistant, pneumonia is deadly again, and neither gonorrhea nor syphilis can be cured. We have ten years to escape this trap. I don’t know if we can do it.

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As Flood Waters Rise, Food Prices Soar in Pakistan

As of this morning, the UN has received about 20% of its $459 million flash appeal. But it does seem as if funds are coming in at a rapid clip.  Norway announced it is giving $16 million to UN -led relief efforts. The Netherlands announced a 2 million euro pledge.  Meanwhile Ban Ki Moon and John Kerry–who shephearded multi-billlion dollar aid package through congress last year.

In the midst of an emergency like this, the first priority is obviously to rescue people and provide them food, water and rudimentary shelter.  But even while emergency rescue efforts are underway, it is important to keep in mind some of the long term impacts of this crisis.  One of this is the devastation of Pakistan’s agriculture sector.  This is the lifeblood of the Pakistani economy–and it has taken a very big hit.  From Reuters:


About 500,000 tonnes of wheat stocked with farmers has been lost. Sugar output will also be hit by a similar amount, according to initial estimates. Up to 2 million bales of cotton, out of targetted output of 14 million bales, had been lost, industry officials said. That will mean the textile sector, which accounts for about 60 percent of exports, will have to import more cotton to feed mills. With higher transport costs and food shortages, inflation, and the public anger that will spark, is a major worry. The consumer price index came in at 12.34 year-on-year in July and will head higher.

The World Bank estimates that Pakistan has already lost $1 billion worth of crops.  And as the Dawn reports, people are feeling the pinch as food prices are soaring.

The prices of basic items such as tomatoes, onions, potatoes and squash have in some cases quadrupled in recent days, putting them out of reach for many Pakistanis who struggled to get by even before the floods hit.

”It is like a fire erupted in the market,” said Mohammad Siddiq as he purchased vegetables in the city of Lahore. ”Floods and rains have made these things unaffordable.”

Ramadan began this week–usually a time for feasts and celebration.  Even for those not directly affected by the flooding, being priced out of your meal is bound to create resentment and misery 



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Stream of Nothing But Nets Facebook Video Chat

Earlier today, our friends at Nothing But Nets hosted an Facebook “townhall” event featuring the actress Mandy Moore, who will be delivering anti-Malaria bed nets to the Central African Republic. In case you missed it…Send a net. Save a life!

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Cartoonists Ted Rall and Matt Bors, Reporting from Afghanistan

Cartoonists Ted Rall and Matt Bors are headed to Afghanistan for a month of on-the-ground reporting. They are going to focus on talking to regular Afghans, looking at the human, everyday experience of the war.

They’re launching their trip from Dushanbe, where I live, so I met up with them today to talk about their trip. Here’s what I asked them:

Why are you doing this?

Ted: I’ve been interested in Afghanistan for 20 years. I went there for the first time in 1999. After the invasion in 2001, my interest in the country deepened. I have been watching the occupation and its progress – or lack of progress.

I am frustrated by the war reporting we get. I wanted to see the situation for myself, and find out how Afghans see things. Logistically, in terms of this particular trip, I have a book contract for a book on Afghanistan, and this is research for that book.

In a bigger sense, I think our responsibility as Americans is to look seriously at the country we’re occupying.

Matt: Ted asked me to come. And I have never been out of the US as an adult. The Afghanistan war has been going on for nine years, which is my entire adult life. I wanted to see the situation for myself instead of watching it on the news.  I am helping pay for this occupation; I wanted to see it up close.

Do you think that your reports from the field will be different because you are cartoonists? Does reporting in a graphic form convey information differently?

Ted: I think cartoons are effective in unique way. They are less precise than photos and more precise than words. I have read a lot of graphic journalism – Joe Sacco, Guy Delisle – and it conveys a very strong sense of place.

Matt: I am not planning on breaking any news. I am planning on opinion and narrative pieces. I am not trying to break hard news or be an objective journalist. As a cartoonist, the experience of being on the ground yourself is invaluable. At the same time, filing from the ground isn’t really done in editorial cartoons. Most editorial cartoonists do the USO tour if they visit war zones.

What impact are you hoping for from this trip?

Matt: To provide a perspective to American’s that’s not based in Kabul or from an embed. In comic form. I want to create meaningful work. This will be the most important work I have done so far.

Ted: It’s too late, but I really hope some Americans reconsider the US role in Afghanistan. If most Americans really knew what their country was up to overseas they would care.

How does the killing of the medical team last week affect your plans?

Ted: We’ve certainly talked about it. But it’s not unprecedented. In 2002 we saw the deaths of UN employees. The Taliban massacred Iranian diplomats in 1998. This new awful event doesn’t change the security situation.

The thing that I hope makes us different is that we’re not proselytizing. The medical team had a cross as their logo, they had a Dari language bible. We are not doing that. I have interacted with the Taliban before, and I fully expect that I will on this trip. And I can’t say I feel 100% safe as a political cartoonist in the US. I’ve gotten more death threats in the US than anywhere else.

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South Sudan Watch #3: Soldiers Ready to Take Up Arms

Here’s a quick tip for following events in Sudan from afar: go to and look on the right side of the home page for the latest readers’ poll. This poll often gives an accurate indication of an important issue of the day in Sudan. Right now the polling question is: “How should the SPLM [the southern ruling party] respond to a referendum postponement?” The three options are 1) agree to it 2) negotiate to keep the referendum date unchanged and 3) go to war with the North.

On the topic of the third option, I had a disheartening conversation with a southern Sudanese soldier yesterday in the southern capital Juba while I was interviewing some young men playing dominoes on the roadside. He told me that the possibility of having to fight the North again to gain their freedom is not out of the question, despite the fact that the internationally-brokered Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by North and South in 2005 guaranteed the southerners the right to a self-determination referendum.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this soldier had more than enough of war and fighting in his lifetime; I could tell from the sound of his voice when he told me that southerners had already fought a war for 22 years to get their referendum but now they’re not sure if this referendum will really happen. It’s hard not to notice the direct impact of high-level political dynamics and disputes in Sudan on the everyday citizens who fight the battles (literally and metaphorically) on the ground. This relationship could not be more clear in the front line North-South border region of Abyei, which I visited earlier this week on a reporting trip. More from that trip soon.


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