The recent floods in Pakistan (watch videos here) caused an initial wave of 1500 deaths, but that number may quickly begin to mount as rain continues to inundate parts of Pakistan and displaced and stranded Pakistanis face shortages in food and clean water. United Nations officials say that approximately 6 million Pakistanis, mostly children, are at risk for water-born diseases that could be potentially lethal.1 This humanitarian disaster clearly shows the linkages between environmental issues, governmental instability, development, and health.

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Catastrophic weather patterns leading to unprecedented heat waves, storms, and floods are becoming more and more common as global warming takes its toll, causing events like smaller floods here in the US, fires and heat waves in Russia, flooding and mudslides a few months ago in Brazil, and now this deluge of flooding in Pakistan. Governments that are not stable enough or are not held accountable to their people fail to provide the kind of response needed in such instances. Pakistanis were infuriated by the fact that their President Asif Ali Zardari continued his trip to England even as floods devastated his country, and see his response to the disaster as slow and inadequate2 (reminiscent, perhaps, of President Bush’s delayed response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005).

Both international and domestic aid to the citizens of Pakistan has been slow to arrive and has been insufficient and inconsistent, leaving people to fight over food and water. The lack of developed systems in Pakistan – sturdy buildings, roads and bridges, as well as evacuation routes, transportation, and rescue capabilities – has made aid difficult to deliver and has made it nearly impossible for many Pakistanis to reach safety. Lastly, the impending health disaster demonstrates more than ever the need to prioritize the integration of health systems into other forms of development, in order to provide clean water, safe food, and the medicines necessary to combat disease when these basic needs are not readily avaible in such situations. In order to address the issues posing increasing challenges to our planet, like emergency response, it is necessary to understand and act on the linkages between sectors and develop comprehensive solutions.

1“With Aid Slow, U.N. Sees Worse Disaster in Pakistan.” http://www.nytimes.com

/2010/08/17/world/asia/17pstan.html?ref=world

2“Pakistan’s President Stays Away From Devastated Region.” http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/12/pakistans-president-stays-away-from-flood-zones-epicenter/?ref=world

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