ISLAMABAD, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has warned that the country could take three years or more to recover from the month-long floods as authorities battled to protect towns and cities from rising waters, local media reported Tuesday.
The floods have killed over 1,500 people and affected up to 20 million nationwide in the country's worst natural disaster, with the threat of disease ever present in the camps sheltering survivors.
"Your guess is as good as mine, but three years is a minimum," Zardari told reporters when asked how long it would take Pakistan to go through relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation after the floods.
"I don't think Pakistan will ever fully recover but we will move on," the president was quoted as saying by local newspaper Dawn, adding the government was working to protect people from future flooding.
Zardari was denounced for failing to cut short a visit to Europe at the start of the disaster, and while he defended that decision, he acknowledged that some criticism of the government's response was justified.
UN officials said though the flood deaths are still relatively low at this point they are concerned about communicable illnesses breaking out among the millions of displaced victims.
The World Health Organization announced Sunday that more than 200,000 cases of acute diarrhea have been diagnosed among flooded Pakistanis, and there are more than 250,000 cases of disease including scabies.