Published On: Tue, Sep 12th, 2017

Faced with grave threat

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Health experts have warned the citizens about the risk of malaria and other mosquito-related and water-borne diseases in the wake of the torrential rains in the city that have inundated almost the entire city and the filthy conditions created by the cattle markets. The current filthy conditions are a harbinger of various diseases, particularly malaria and dengue.

As per available reports, around 14,000 cases of this mosquito-borne disease have already been reported in Sindh so far this year. Dengue is also present and it can aggravate in the rainy conditions.

Predictably enough, given that pools of stagnant rainwater are the perfect incubator for mosquito larvae, provincial health officials have warned that malaria incidence rates will spike in the weeks ahead. As far as officialdom is concerned though, matters are improving.

As per their figures, the cases reported last year – more than 30,000 – were 14,000 less than those recorded in 2015. Independent experts, however, dispute these figures. According to them, given the appalling hygiene conditions in urban centres as well as rural areas, an increase in malaria cases is inevitable. According to WHO, vector-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, etc kill an estimated one million people annually.

The risk would be much reduced if certain safety precautions were followed, both by the government and people themselves. At the moment, KP is in the grip of a dengue epidemic, with upward of 4,000 suspected cases. And people coming into Karachi city from KPK can also become carrier of the dengue virus disease.

The Punjab government, which acquired expertise in tackling the disease after the province was hit by a devastating dengue epidemic during 2011-2012, is sharing its know-how with KP in dealing with the health emergency.

Sindh could learn much from Punjab’s example. The latter won its battle against dengue through sheer energy and persistence.

In contrast, the response by the Sindh government to health crises, even predictable ones like malaria, is slow and plodding, reactive rather than proactive. Pakistan’s health authorities have reported over 1,000 cases of chikungunya in Karachi since December 2016; such outbreaks of debilitating diseases are bound to rise.

It may be impossible to completely eradicate vector-borne infections, especially in areas with high population density, but cleaning up an environment that breeds all kinds of diseases, is certainly not.

The irony is the Sindh government is totally negligent of its services to people. Even the basic amenities like the cleanliness and water supply system are in a mess. One wonders what will become of the citizens in the post-rain conditions, particularly in the urban centres of the Sindh where the civic facilities are in shambles.

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