From: Asif Shahzad, Associated Press
Published June 1, 2006 12:00 AM

Contaminated Water Leaves Nine Dead, 19,000 Sick in Eastern Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Nine people died and more than 19,000 others were sickened after an eastern Pakistani city's water system was contaminated by sewage, officials said Thursday.


Hospitals in the industrial city of Faisalabad have treated thousands of patients for diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting since May 14, said Rana Imran, district health officer for Faisalabad.


Nine people, including five children, have died of gastroenteritis so far, he said.


The water system supplying a working-class neighborhood was contaminated with sewage earlier this month, causing the outbreak, said Aslam Chaudhry, general health director for the district of Punjab, where Faisalabad is located.


Doctors have seen a sharp decline in the number of patients in recent days, and officials believe the problem has been brought under control.


Hospitals in other parts of Punjab province have also been receiving dozens of gastroenteritis patients daily, but officials don't believe those cases are related to the outbreak, Chaudhry said. The area always sees an increase in gastroenteritis cases every summer, he said.


Clean water was trucked into Faisalabad and a media campaign told residents to boil water before drinking it.


Water systems in Pakistani cities are often poorly maintained, and their pipes sometimes run near wastewater outlets. Deaths from water contamination are common.


Nearly half of Pakistan's population -- about 160 million -- lacks access to proper sanitation, and 40 percent of hospital beds are occupied by victims of waterborne diseases, according to a recent government study.


The government has promised to provide clean drinking water to every Pakistani by the end of 2007.


Source: Associated Press


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