Pakistan disease dangers remain

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Up to 3.5 million children are at high risk from deadly water-borne diseases in Pakistan following the country's floods, a UN spokesman has said the catastrophe continues to wreak havoc. The floods have killed up to 1,600 people. Another two million have been left homeless. The BBC's Lyse Doucet has been monitoring the devastation across the country. Katy Clark talks with her.

KATY CLARK: I'm Katy Clark and this is The World. The battle between Mother Nature and aid efforts in Pakistan has been going on for more than two weeks. Unfortunately, Mother Nature seems to have the upper hand. Pakistan's worst floods in decades continue to wreak havoc. The floods have killed up to 1,600 people. Another two million have been left homeless. And up to three-and-a-half million children in Pakistan may be at risk from water-borne diseases. The BBC's Lyse Doucet has been monitoring the devastation across the country. She's back in the capital, Islamabad. Lyse, you've been travelling through some of the worst hit areas of Pakistan. What kind of aid is getting through to people there?

LYSE DOUCET: Well, I happen to be in the country and happen to be actually in the northwest of Pakistan, the area first hit by this extraordinary disaster. Yesterday the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was here and I had the opportunity to travel with him and Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari. We went by helicopters over the part of Pakistan that should be the food basket of this country, but the province looked like it was a series of lakes swallowing up the valuable crops like cotton and sugar cane and wheat. And yet the UN officials who we were travelling with said to us that they still haven't even reached 50% of the people who need aid immediately.

CLARK: And why is that? Is it just because this is such a huge disaster or?? I hope it's not that the intent and the care isn't there for the people in Pakistan who are suffering right now.

DOUCET: I've had so many discussions with aid people, some of whom I've met frequently in the field whether it was covering the Asian tsunami of 2004 which, of course, affected some 13 countries across the Indian Ocean or here is Pakistan for the Kashmir earthquake of 2005. And both of them we saw massive outpouring of both sympathy and solidarity. What is it this time? Well, some say, even senior UN officials say, that an earthquake has a shock effect. It attracts people's interest immediately, but this kind of a flood situation evolves very slowly over time. And therefore it takes a long time for people to try to wake up. And then there's questions, of course, is it because it's Pakistan? There was actually a news conference in Geneva today where a UN spokesperson actually said that relief agencies are having trouble obtaining funds because the country suffers from an image deficit. Whatever it is, it is truly consequential because this is a crisis with so many dimensions. It's a monsoon crisis, it's a food crisis. And today I was speaking to Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and he warned the world it's also a security crisis. He said we don't have the resources to fight floods and the insurgency at the same time.

CLARK: What kind of reaction were average Pakistani's giving to President Zardari and UN Security Ban Ki-moon yesterday? Were they happy to see them? Angry?

DOUCET: Well, as you know, the Pakistani president has come under heavy criticism both inside Pakistan and abroad when he continued a foreign trip last week, both to Britain and France. I have to say that when our helicopters touched down at a relief camp set up by the Pakistan military in Punjab Province yesterday, there were rousing cheers from about a thousand displaced people using the cheer that often comes from crowds here which is ?Zindabad,? long live, so ?President Zardari zindabad? and ?Ban Ki-moon zindabad? and there was real jubilation there. But, of course, visits like that certainly gives them something to hold on to. Some hope that perhaps someone will take care of them despite the fact that they, like millions of other people here, are facing an uncertain future.

CLARK: Finally Lyse, if you can just describe what is life like for people right now? How are they even surviving?

DOUCET: It's quite extraordinary. I've been to three of the four worst affected provinces and it's absolutely heartbreaking. Heartwrenching was the word used by Ban Ki-moon yesterday. When you see people walking through the water, sometimes you have grandparents with children on their heads. Their mother and father of the family carrying whatever goods they can carry, bundles of damp clothing. Today when I was in the Foreign Ministry a very finely-suited young officer in the Foreign Ministry sat down with us and I said, well, how is your family doing? Cause he comes from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which is in the northwest. He said, well, my wife's family, their house was ? it was completely washed away. And he said, I never realized that this would happen. Like most Pakistanis, he said, who live in rural area, they keep everything in the house. They don't go to banks. He said, all the money, all the jewelry, in other words, the family's wealth has simply been washed away. And he said they saw the cabinets bobbing in the water, moving away from them, and basically their lives going downstream. And I thought, we don't realize how vast the impact of this is. It affects people right across this society, up and down from north to south, to rich or poor. But, of course, the most terrible images of all are those who are very, very poor and now they've become doubly cursed. They have absolutely nothing at all, including very little certainty about what the future holds for them.

CLARK: The BBC's Lyse Doucet in Islamabad.