(Bloomberg) -- Pakistan is facing a health emergency with diseases rising after flooding inundated a third of the country’s land, the nation’s climate change minister said. 

“We are still in the life saving phase after 17 hard weeks,” Sherry Rehman said in an interview to Bloomberg TV. Malaria and other water-based diseases is the next crisis, while women are giving birth in unhygienic conditions, she said. About 21 million are still in acute need of help. 

Pakistan received rainfall three times higher than usual in monsoon season causing flash floods across the south Asian country that killed about 1,700 people and affected 33 million, which is more than the population of Australia. The government estimates damages of over $30 billion to the cash-strapped economy. The water has started dropping but thousands of people still live in tents or seek refuge on the highways that are not underwater.

Pakistan has already warned about possible food shortage as millions head back home in the next few months. Floods may push as many as nine million people into poverty, according to World Bank. The United Nations and Pakistan government have jointly appealed for $816 million in aid.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari are scheduled to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference next month to highlight the crisis, said Rehman.

The government is struggling to get doctors into crisis-prone areas, she said. There is a real worry how the government will finish relief for 33 million people, let alone rehabilitate and reconstruct, Rehman added

The World Bank has also cut its growth forecast for the nation by half to 2% in year started July. Pakistan’s credit rating was downgraded deeper into junk by Moody’s Investors Service after the floods, citing increased risks to the nation’s debt sustainability. 


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