Mysterious illness strikes children of Swat

Published: January 8, 2017
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SWAT: A mystery illness is stalking the lives of five young members of a family whose unsuccessful battle against the ailment has already dried up its meagre resources. Two younger members of the Swat-based family have already succumbed to the illness – described as a fatal skin disease whose symptoms are not too different from chicken pox.

Sharing their ordeal, the patriarch of the family Abdul Malik said: “The fatal disease has made the life of our children miserable as it causes severe pain coupled with extreme rash.”

“Shahid, Hussain, Huma, Sana and Summaya are suffering from a chicken pox- like condition. Their faces are now covered with prickles filled with pus. The illness made its first appearance when the children were eight months old,” he said. He said the disease has so far claimed the life of one of his sons and a nephew.

According to Malik, the disease is contagious but tends to affect children only. Adults in the family are more or less safe. “The disease has only affected children in our family …there is not a single child suffering from this disease in the entire village,” he said. A labourer by profession, Malik finds it difficult to provide better treatment to his children. “In order to make ends meet, I work on construction sites on daily wages but unfortunately my income is not enough to arrange for proper medication for the ailing children,” he said.

He said a skin specialist in Mingora city had prescribed medicines for the children but he has now advised them to see a specialist outside Swat. “The skin specialist has advised me to take the ailing children to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) in Islamabad. However, it is not possible for us due to our poor financial position,” he said.

Riaz Ahmad, Malik’s younger brother whose daughter is also suffering from the same disease, said it was an ordeal for the whole family. “I lost one of my sons and now my daughter, Nazish, is also suffering from the same illness.” Ahmad said both he and Malik had spent all of their savings and property on their children’s treatment but to no avail, as the miseries of their children continue. “Both my brother and I cannot bear the expenses of our children’s treatment and are waiting for a miracle to happen,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2017.

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