Each year, Southern Asia is drenched with monsoon rains between the months of June and September. But with recent climatological changes, more extreme, longer periods of rain have led to severe flooding across countries like India, Nepal, Bangladesh and, currently, Pakistan. Pakistan is currently experiencing its worst flooding in a decade. The country’s National Disaster Management Authority has reported that the flooding has affected more than 33 million people and destroyed one million homes, and there have been approximately 1,100 fatalities.
Although not as severe as in Pakistan, India has also suffered this monsoon season, with flooding reported in Eastern and Southern India. Leaders at the World Health Organisation (WHO) have expressed their concern regarding the spread of malaria, dengue fever, cholera, polio and other vector-borne diseases, as well as the risk of Covid-19 within the crowded camps and flooded regions. GlobalData epidemiologists anticipate that flooding across Southern Asian countries may lead to an increase in the incidence of vector-borne diseases and Covid-19.
The water that floods Southern Asia often becomes stagnant and contaminated as it cannot be cleared quickly – this is a breeding ground for mosquitoes which transmit diseases like malaria and dengue fever (both of which can be fatal if not treated quickly). Given the dense population of internally displaced people who must reside in informal settlements with poor sanitation and sewage facilities, cholera and other acute diarrheal illness will increase in prevalence. In addition to this, the number of people within close proximity also provides ample opportunity for Covid-19 transmission.
With the threat of multiple disease outbreaks, it is of the utmost importance that healthcare facilities and medical supplies are accessible. However, the destructive nature of the floods and monsoon rains often leaves healthcare facilities overcrowded, or damaged and unsafe for use. There are currently 900 healthcare facilities out of use in Pakistan, limiting their ability to treat the injured and unwell, while also slowing any preventative programmes such as vaccination schemes, which are paramount to controlling the spread of vector-borne diseases like malaria.
GlobalData epidemiologists anticipate that as the incidence of vector and water-borne diseases increases in flooded countries in South Asia, as they are in Pakistan, it is likely that the estimated incident cases of diseases in neighbouring countries will also rise. For example, India may be impacted by the flooding and observe an increase in malaria and dengue. For this year, GlobalData epidemiologists forecast 13,395,000 estimated incident cases of malaria and 41,000 incident cases of dengue. But if the flooding continues and disease continues to spread, malaria and dengue cases may surpass current forecast estimates.
It is of paramount importance that there is an international level of support for Southern Asian countries during monsoon season – not only in terms of providing aid to the injured and unwell, but also ensuring that disease surveillance and prevention efforts are put in place to minimise the risk of infection spread across the affected country and its neighbours.