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Cholera Death Raises Fears in Flood-Ravaged Pakistan

August 20, 2010 at 5:41 PM EST
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Shortages of food and water are still prominent in flooded areas of Pakistan, however more aid arrived from neighboring countries. An aid plane landed in Punjab from China, and Pakistan accepted $5 million aid offer India.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: the Pakistan flood story.

Amid the continuing devastation of Pakistan’s floods, what some aid workers have feared the most: the first reported death today from cholera. The local head of the World Health Organization said the WHO doesn’t anticipate an epidemic, but reported there have been other sporadic cases of the disease.

DR. GUIDO SABATINELLI, director, World Health Organization – Pakistan: The situation is very serious, and is going to — the worst has to come. We are receiving some good pledges. We cannot buy drugs with pledges. We need to convert these into checks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, aid from Pakistan’s two closest neighbors began to flow in. An aid plane from China arrived in Punjab, and Pakistan agreed to accept a $5 million aid offer from longtime archrival India.

The aid arrived amid continuing scenes of desperation. Much of the aid has yet to reach the refugee camps. When it does, scenes of chaos emerge. Those who haven’t made it to the camps have even less.

AZRA BIBI, Pakistan (through translator): We are sitting here without food and clothing and starving. We lost our livestock, crops and belongings, nothing left.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Twenty million people are affected by the disaster, and many have poured into makeshift camps, leaving everything behind.

WAZIRAN KHATOON, Pakistan (through translator): We faced big problems when the floodwater reached our village and ruined everything and left nothing. Then, I gave birth to this baby, and now I am worried how I will take care of this baby and my other small children, how my future life will be.

JUDY WOODRUFF: More than six million people have been left homeless. The flooding now stretches almost the length of the country, from parts of the Swat Valley in the north, through Punjab, and on to Sindh Province in the south.

These satellite images released today show the Indus River that runs through the heart of Pakistan on August 9, and again three days later, just before the second wave of flooding. Those rising waters have left thousands waiting to be rescued, and the military is taking the lead.

LT. FAISAL RIAZ, Pakistan Navy: The Pakistan Navy started its relief operations and rescued about 90,000 people from disturbed areas. These people were brought to safer locations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Rains have abated slightly in the last few days, but the monsoon season is expected to last several more weeks.