In Pakistan, mental health crisis brews among survivors of deadly floods

A view of the psychiatric outpatient department (OPD) at the Civil Hospital Mirpurkhas where Dr Lakesh Khatri, the district psychiatrist, examines a patient in Mirpurkhas, Pakistan, on October 3, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
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Updated 07 October 2022

In Pakistan, mental health crisis brews among survivors of deadly floods

  • Over 2,000 people came to Civil Hospital Mirpurkhas in Sindh between June and September seeking psychiatric treatment
  • The figure is at least a 10 percent increase from past four months, according to data from the facility and doctors’ testimonies

MIRPURKHAS, SINDH: Nasir Khan, a 40-year-old laborer from the southern Pakistani district of Mirpurkhas, stood outside the Civil Hospital last week, complaining of anxiety and feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

In August, Khan’s home and livestock were washed away in deadly floods that have affected at least 33 million people in Pakistan since mid-June and killed nearly 1,700. The father of four has since been living with his family at a relief camp in Sindh, the province worst-hit by the floods, where water and vector borne diseases are now rampant and a return to normalcy is months, if not years, away.

Last year, the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London said intensifying climate change impacts, from fiercer heatwaves to flooded homes, were driving a growing mental health crisis around the world.




A view of the psychiatric outpatient department (OPD) at the Civil Hospital Mirpurkhas where Dr Lakesh Khatri, the district psychiatrist, examines a patient in Mirpurkhas, Pakistan, on October 3, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

“Before the floods, I did not have any psychiatric issues,” Khan told Arab News, describing sleepless nights spent swatting mosquitos and days with little food. “Now, I feel scared for mine and my family’s future.”

Pakistan’s minister for climate change, Sherry Rehman, has highlighted the need for urgent medical supplies to protect against fast-spreading water-borne diseases due to stagnant water, urging the developed world to accelerate funding for a disaster that she has said had no parallel in known history.

But little to no attention is being paid to the psychological toll of the catastrophe.




A view of a roadside temporary shelter for flood survivors in Mirpurkhas, Pakistan, on October 3, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Already, the damage from the floods is reflected in a jump in the number of people reporting mental health problems. Over 2,000 people came to the Civil Hospital Mirpurkhas between June and September this year to seek psychiatric treatment, at least a 10 percent increase from the past four months, according to data from the facility.

“At Civil Hospital Mirpurkhas, the number of patients coming to the psychiatric outpatient department has increased by 10 percent as compared to the average number of patients in the previous four months,” Dr. Lakesh Khatri, the district psychiatrist, told Arab News. “The increased number of cases are flood-affected people who have faced trauma due to the widespread devastation.”




A view of a roadside temporary shelter for flood survivors in Mirpurkhas, Pakistan, on October 3, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Mental health patients, a majority of them male, were also arriving at the hospital from the nearby Sanghar and Umerkot districts, Khatri added. Diagnosed mental health problems were caused by financial stressed, as well as a lost sense of security.

The Sindh Mental Health Authority (SMHA) said the surge in mental health cases was mostly due to uncertain and deteriorating socio-economic conditions in the wake of the floods. It would take months, according to the body, to quantify the exact damage to mental health in the province where over 750 people have been killed, 2,045,349 homes damaged and 435,173 livestock lost.




A view of a roadside temporary shelter for flood survivors in Mirpurkhas, Pakistan, on October 3, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Officials say more than two million acres (809,371 hectares) of agricultural land has been flooded countrywide, destroying most standing crops and preventing farmers from sowing new ones.

“This monsoon and floods affected farming communities’ dual crops, standing and upcoming. It also washed away their houses and uprooted them,” SMHA chairman Dr. Karim Ahmed Khawaja told Arab News last week.

At this stage quantifying the number of mental health patients related to Sindh flood devastation is difficult and the SMHA will conduct a study after the flood water recedes close to the end of the year.”

Due to stagnant floodwater in agricultural fields, a large number of farmers were likely to miss the upcoming winter cultivation season Khawaja said. As the next cultivation season would begin in March 2023, many farmers would have no livelihood for at least the next six months, a worry that was triggering mental health problems.

Referring to a 2020 mental health study in Sindh focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, Khawaja said the prevalence of depression was assessed at 42 percent, while 85 percent of the 1,494 people surveyed had anxiety. Among the participants, 10 percent were reported to have received a psychiatric diagnosis.




A view of submerged houses on the Mirpurkhas-Sanghar road, Mirpurkhas, Pakistan, on October 3, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

“Since the COVID pandemic is still continuing and so are its impacts, the devastation from floods has added to the mental health impacts [already] present in the society,” the SMHA chairman said.

“Floods have caused depression and anxiety among survivors,” he added. “They find their future bleak because of poor health, economic and livelihood conditions.”




A view of submerged agricultural lands on the Mirpurkhas-Sanghar road, Mirpurkhas, Pakistan, on October 3, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

The province also does not have the requisite number of doctors to deal with the surge in mental health concerns, Khawaja said.

“Sindh has a total of 145 psychiatrists,” he said. “Out of 30 districts in the province, more than 20 districts do not even have a single psychiatrist.”




A girl poses at a roadside shelter in Mirpurkhas, Pakistan, on October 3, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

 


Pakistan PM lauds military’s professional abilities while meeting new army chief

Updated 5 sec ago

Pakistan PM lauds military’s professional abilities while meeting new army chief

  • Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tells General Asim Munir it is a huge honor to lead the Pakistan Army
  • The PM hopes the armed forces will protect the country’s security better under its new leadership

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif praised the military’s professional abilities while holding a meeting with the new army chief Syed Asim Munir on Wednesday, saying it was a huge honor for anyone to lead the armed forces of Pakistan which were tirelessly working for the country’s security.

This was Munir’s first meeting with the prime minister after taking over the army’s command in a ceremony held at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Tuesday. He replaced General Qamar Javed Bajwa who retired from the post after leading the army for six years.

“We have full confidence in the professional capabilities of the Pakistan Army,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office after the meeting.

“It is a great honor to lead the Pakistan Army,” he said while addressing the top general. “It is hoped that the armed forces under your leadership will deal with the challenges facing the country’s security in a better way.”

Sharif congratulated Munir on taking charge of his new position.

He maintained the whole nation was proud of the army’s role in protecting the frontiers of the country and fighting violent extremism and militancy.

The army has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 75-year history, either through coups or as an invisible guiding hand in politics.

Munir’s appointment coincides with a dispute between the army and former premier Imran Khan, who blames top military generals for playing a part in his ouster in a parliamentary no-trust vote earlier this year.

Khan also expressed hope earlier in the day the new military leadership would end the “prevailing trust deficit” between the army and the public.

The PM Office said in its statement Sharif’s meeting with the army chief focused on professional issues related to the country’s defense and security.


Gas blast at Pakistan coal mine kills nine workers, injures four

Updated 30 November 2022

Gas blast at Pakistan coal mine kills nine workers, injures four

  • Coal deposits are found in the northwestern Orakzai district that sits on the Afghan border
  • Mine workers say lack of safety gear, poor working conditions are key causes of accidents

PESHAWAR: A gas blast at a coal mine killed nine workers in a northwestern Pakistani district on Wednesday, a government official said, and a team investigating the incident said gas sparks had caused the explosion.

There were 13 workers in the mine at the time and nine bodies were recovered, said Adnan Farid, the area deputy commissioner.

The remaining four miners were rescued from the rubble and have suffered critical injuries, he said.

A government team from the mineral development department inspected the site of the incident and said the explosion took place "due to gas sparks inside the mine," Orakzai district police chief Nazeer Khan told Reuters.

A government report seen by Reuters said the blast caused the collapse of the mine, and that gas build-up had triggered the blast. It didn't specify what type of gas it was.

Coal deposits are found in the northwestern Orakzai district that sits on the Afghan border and mine accidents are common, mainly due to gas build-ups.

Mine workers have complained that a lack of safety gear and poor working conditions are the key causes of frequent accidents, labor union officials have said in the past.


At exhibition celebrating UAE National Day, envoy says Pakistan ties ‘unique in region’

Updated 51 min 27 sec ago

At exhibition celebrating UAE National Day, envoy says Pakistan ties ‘unique in region’

  • The photo exhibition highlighted 51 years of friendship between the UAE and Pakistan
  • Al-Zaabi expressed optimism about the trajectory of relations between the two countries

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan are destined to take their relations to new heights, said the envoy of the Arab country, Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi, while visiting a photo exhibition in Islamabad on Wednesday.

The exhibition that highlighted 51 years of friendship between the two states is part of a string of events organized to celebrate the UAE national day that falls on December 2.

Students of Sheikh Zayed International Academy, Islamabad, sang the national anthem of the Arab country and performed traditional dance to celebrate the occasion.

“We are always optimistic about the future of bilateral relations with Pakistan and see this relation jump to a different level,” Al-Zaabi said while addressing the ceremony.

UAE Ambassador to Pakistan Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi (3rd from left) inaugurates a photo exhibition in connection with the 51st UAE national day in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (AN Photo)

He maintained the UAE national day was always a major occasion that meant a great deal to the citizens of his country. He also expressed his gratitude to all the students for participating in the program and making it memorable through their performance.

Al-Zaabi said Pakistan and the UAE enjoyed a strong and historic relationship which was spread over 51 years of shared cooperation.

“We always look at this relation as unique in the region,” he continued. “There are feelings of trust between the people and leaders of the two brotherly countries.”
The UAE envoy said his country looked to future generations through educational cooperation.

“Under Sheikh Zayed International Academy, students from different nationalities and cultures have come here to celebrate the UAE national day with our culture which is really important for all of us,” he added.

Students of Sheikh Zayed International Academy are performing to celebrate the 51st UAE national day in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (AN Photo)

Speaking on the occasion, former president of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries Sardar Yasir Ilyas said Pakistan could learn a great deal from the UAE, including how to strengthen its tourism industry.

“Tourism has made the UAE a hub of international attention and Pakistan should learn from [UAE’s] experience to tap its vast potential in this field,” he added.


Pakistan Navy seizes thousands of kilograms of drugs in Arabian Sea

Updated 30 November 2022

Pakistan Navy seizes thousands of kilograms of drugs in Arabian Sea

  • Pakistan is part of a transit route in the lucrative drug smuggling trade
  • Navy says its ships located and effectively intercepted two ‘suspicious’ dhows

KARACHI: In an operation in the North Arabian Sea, two Pakistan Navy ships seized approximately 5,800 kilograms of drugs valued at approximately Rs8.6 billion, a spokesperson for the navy said on Wednesday.

Pakistan, like India, is part of a transit route in the lucrative drug smuggling trade, due to its proximity to Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of opium, from which heroin is made.

“Successful counter narcotics operation was conducted by two Pakistan Navy Ships in Arabian Sea in which a large cache of drugs has been apprehended,” the navy said in a statement.

“While conducting Maritime Security Operations in North Arabian Sea, Naval Ships located and effectively intercepted two suspicious dhows. Upon scrutiny of these boats, a large quantity of drugs that valued approximately Rs. 8.6 billion in international market was seized.”

The navy said both dhows have been handed over to law enforcement agencies. It did not specify what types of drugs were seized or how many people were arrested on board the two dhows.

“The successful operation by Pakistan Navy to seize huge quantity of narcotics reaffirms the resolve and commitment of PN to fulfill national and international obligations for maintaining good order at sea,” the statement said. “Pakistan Navy is vigilant to counter any illegal activity and safeguard its maritime borders.”

In October this year, Indian authorities arrested six Pakistani nationals and seized heroin worth tens of millions of dollars from a Pakistani fishing boat in the Arabian Sea near the western state of Gujarat.


Pakistan, England revisit first Test match schedule after players complain of stomach bug

Updated 30 November 2022

Pakistan, England revisit first Test match schedule after players complain of stomach bug

  • About 8 members of England squad are reportedly unwell despite bringing own chef
  • A ceremony to unveil the Test series trophy had also to be postponed on Wednesday

ISLAMABAD: The top governing bodies of cricket in England and Pakistan are currently revisiting the schedule of the first Test match after England players, including skipper Ben Stokes, complained of a suspected stomach bug ahead of the contest in Rawalpindi on Thursday.

England arrived in Islamabad on Sunday for their first Test tour of Pakistan in 17 years after playing a seven-match Twenty20 series in the country two months ago. The two sides are scheduled to play three Test matches in December, though it is not clear when the series will begin due to the health situation of the host team.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said on Twitter its officials were in conversation with the England Cricket Board (ECB) over the commencement of the first Test match.

“The PCB and ECB are in discussions regarding the commencement of the 1st #PAKvENG Test as some England players are down with viral infection,” the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in a Twitter post. “The PCB continues to monitor the situation, is in contact with the ECB and will provide further updates in due course.”

The captains of the two national teams were also supposed to unveil the Test series trophy on Wednesday, but the ceremony was postponed since the England skipper was not said to be in a good shape.

“Several players and staff members, including England captain Ben Stokes, are feeling unwell and have been advised to stay at the hotel to rest up,” said the ECB in a statement.

According to media reports, about eight members of the England squad had been hit by the viral food poisoning, though the team brought its own chef with it after some players complained about food and fell ill during the T20 series.

Any changes to the earlier schedule of the first Test match will be reached through mutual consultations between the two cricket bodies.