Pakistan: MSF responds to increasing number of patients with acute watery diarrhoea

With the monsoon season in full swing, the independent medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been receiving an increasing number of patients with acute watery diarrhoea in different areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK) as well as in Kurram Agency in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) since July. MSF is reinforcing its teams to respond to the increasing medical needs.

Starting in July, MSF has opened temporary diarrhoea treatment centres in existing hospitals in Mingora in Swat district, in Timergara in Lower Dir district and in Hangu in KPK, as well as in Sadda in Kurram.  MSF is also providing treatment to patients suffering from acute watery diarrhoea in the isolation ward of Tehsil Headquarter (THQ) hospital in Dargai and in the outpatient department of THQ hospital in Alizai in Kurrum.

Of the four temporary diarrhoea treatment centres, the one in Mingora has seen the highest number of patients, with an average of 200 per day. In late August, the number of cases increased sharply over the course of a week, rising from 73 patients per day to 270 patients per day.  About 25 percent of these were children under five years old.

“Acute watery diarrhoea is an easily treatable disease, but it can spread quickly, so prevention is as important as treatment,” says MSF Medical Coordinator Dr Jacob MAIKERE. “The number of cases that we saw, especially in Swat, increased significantly during and after the Eid ul-Fitr holiday (week of 29 August). The situation is now stabilising, but we still need to continue the treatment with patients and our efforts to control the spread of disease.”

MSF is reinforcing its medical teams in Swat and Timergara with three extra international staff and around 30 extra Pakistani staff, who are working alongside Ministry of Health staff on the ground. It has also brought in extra specialized medical supplies.

To prevent the spread of the disease, MSF is providing water and sanitation support in affected areas in collaboration with local communities and medical authorities. This has included cleaning, disinfecting and chlorinating of wells and springs in villages in Swat and Timergara. MSF teams are also providing training in hospitals to existing medical staff, to strengthen their capacity to deal with the patient cases.  

MSF is also closely monitoring the situation in neighbouring areas. Following an assessment in Nowshera and Mardan, MSF has donated treatment materials, including IV fluids and oral rehydration solution, and has carried out staff training in local health facilities.  

MSF is a medical humanitarian association providing free emergency medical assistance to people in need, independent of any political or military groups, in more than 65 countries around the world. Since 1986, MSF has been working in Pakistan with Pakistani communities and Afghan refugees who have been affected by armed conflict, natural disasters or a lack of access to medical. MSF teams are currently providing free emergency medical care in Kurram Agency in FATA, Hangu, Peshawar, Lower Dir, Malakand and Swat districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and in Baluchistan province.

MSF relies solely on private financial contributions from individuals around the world and does not accept funding from any government, donor agency, or from any military or politically-affiliated group for its activities in Pakistan.