Seven children belonging to two remote villages in Hyderabad died this week after suffering from measles for nearly two weeks. The children were not given medical attention in time as their parents believed that measles is treatable at home and hence, did not consult a doctor. In addition, many of the parents simply could not afford to hire a taxi or a rickshaw to take their children to the nearest health facility. A one-way ride to the nearest government hospital in the area is said to be Rs300. Even if this trip is made, oftentimes, patients are referred to another hospital — a cost beyond the means of these families who earn their livelihoods through hard labour.
The ordeal faced by the families of these villages is a stark reminder of the multiple levels at which our government has failed. Firstly, it has failed to provide an effective immunisation programme for the people of Sindh that allows health workers to reach all corners of the province and vaccinate every child. This is the 21st century and there is no excuse for a government that allowed deaths of children from a disease as preventable as measles. Secondly, the government has failed to provide education to the masses. Keeping aside the quality of education at public schools, there are vast areas of Sindh where people have never set foot inside a classroom. This lack of education has resulted in an acute lack of awareness among the public regarding the necessity of seeking vaccinations and medical help when needed. Thirdly, the government has failed to provide the infrastructure needed to connect remote villages to main city centres. Where are the million-rupee ambulances that the government bids for every two years or so? Why do these parents have to hire rickshaws to access something as crucial as a hospital? The Sindh government has failed at multiple levels and the recent deaths from measles are nothing but a small glimpse into the mess that has become governing this province.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2016.
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