The number of Tuberculosis patients in Swat has risen to over 3,000 despite a government-sponsored disease control programme, The Express Tribune has learnt.
“Of the 3,300 known cases, 1,400 people have been treated free of charge and the others are under proper treatment,” said Dr Mushtaq, who is incharge of the National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTP) in Swat.
Tuberculosis, also known as TB, was declared a national danger by the Pakistan government in 2001 and the NTB was initiated to arrest the disease’s spread until 2012.
Speaking about the spread of TB in Swat, he said the two main causes were poor nutrition and lack of sanitation which are both directly connected to poverty. “Swat went through mayhem [during Talibanisation and the army operation] and then, it was hit by the floods. Poverty levels increased, particularly in rural areas where people are more prone to contract TB,” he said.
Pakistan ranks eighth on the list of 22 high-burden TB countries in the world. About nine million fresh TB cases are reported globally every year, of which 0.3 million are from Pakistan.
Dr Mushtaq said that although TB is a dangerous disease, it is curable and can be treated for free in many hospitals. “[But] religious scholars, teachers and civil society members need to create awareness about the disease in order to eradicate it,” he said.
But while NTP professionals claim success, other doctors point out flaws with their data.
“The most alarming thing about the disease is that people who live in far-flung areas are inaccessible,” says Swat-based Dr Ihsan. “They don’t go to hospitals. So they are not included in data collection and this means that figures collected by the TB control programme may not be very authentic. Rural areas need to be given more attention.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2011.
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