According to media reports, in Badin district of Sindh, every second person screened has tested positive for tuberculosis. This is a staggering rate. The incidence of TB in other parts of the province is no better either. Sindh health department officials say of the 120,000 patients, 60 were successfully treated. Around 48,000 patients had been missed as they were not notified in the health system. The rising incidence of the disease, though fully curable, raises disconcerting questions. Malnutrition, unhygienic environment both at home and outside, unhealthy habits, poverty and use of tobacco are the main causes of tuberculosis. Uncontrolled increase in population, based on the erroneous belief that large families are beneficial, lack of literacy and the resulting ignorance, are other important contributors to the rising incidence of the disease.
It is seen that people in Badin prefer to have many children. They marry off their girls and boys at an early age which leads to early pregnancies and births. There is poverty too, so is malnutrition. Many in the area use tobacco in various forms. Most common are smoking and chewing of gutka. The strategy to battle the scourge needs to be focused on all the above-mentioned factors. The people should be provided sufficient and nutritious food. The government should strive to provide additional nutrition. Inculcation of healthy habits and awareness of the importance of living in a healthy environment are of utmost importance. Preference for a large number of children without having the adequate means to support them is a significant factor that contributes to malnutrition, the basis cause of tuberculosis. The root causes of the spread of the disease are poverty and ignorance. The authorities should focus more on these two aspects if TB is to be eradicated. For the poor, TB is still a death warrant. Its treatment needs both expensive medicines and food.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2019.