In the hours before her six-year-old son died in her lap, Badar Bibi recalled how she rushed from a field clinic set up to treat people caught in Pakistan’s worst floods in decades to a city hospital, desperate to bring down the boy’s fever.
First she took Abdul Qadeer to a makeshift medical centre set up by the air force, where doctors managed to bring down his temperature from 41 Celsius. They also helped her get a tuk-tuk to rush him to the hospital in the nearby city of Sehwan.
There the boy was put on a drip, and when his condition continued to improve, he was discharged. But the night that Bibi took her son back to a government-run tent camp for displaced families, he died.
“Doctors told me … he was alright,” said the 29-year-old. “I took my child in my arms … and at night my child died,” she said, sobbing.
Shahid Iqbal, the doctor who treated the boy at the field clinic last week, said it had not been possible to diagnose the exact cause of his fever.
But he is one of hundreds of children who have died in the deluge that has devastated large parts of Pakistan’s southern provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, either drowned as waters flooded homes or struck by diseases, some of them water-borne.
According to official figures, 496 of the 1,399 killed so far in the floods have been children. Some aid groups fear that they will now be particularly vulnerable to sickness likely to spread as waters begin to recede.
Access to emergency medical support has been seriously hampered by blocked roads, damaged buildings and collapsed bridges.