Amid political wrangling: After dengue, malaria raises its ugly head

Already, more than 52,000 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been reported in Sindh

Tufail Ahmed September 21, 2019

KARACHI: With an outbreak of dengue virus still looming large following heavier than usual monsoon rains this year, the citizens of Sindh, particularly those in Karachi, now face the threat of another mosquito-borne disease.

Already, more than 52,000 cases of malaria have been reported from various parts of the province, according to a report compiled by the health authorities, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune.

The figures are in addition to the roughly 5,000 cases of dengue virus which have also been reported from Sindh.

The exact number of Sindh residents who contracted malaria this year so far is 52,377, according to the report issued by the additional director of the Malaria Control Programme. The cases were reported from government hospitals all over the province between January and July this year. More alarmingly, 70 per cent of the malaria patients in the province were children, women and senior citizens, the report revealed.

Of the over 52,000 malaria infections in Sindh this year, Karachi accounted for 1,876 cases, according to the report. The bulk of them was, however, reported from Thatta. A staggering 10,191 malaria cases were reported from government hospitals in the district, accounting for nearly 20 per cent of the province's overall figure.

Another 4,428 malaria cases were reported from Sujawal district, while 4,121 cases were reported from Larkana district, the report revealed. Tando Muhammad Khan accounted for another 3,994 cases while 3,602 were reported from Badin. Mirpurkhas reported 3,523 malaria cases and Umerkot reported 3,183. Khairpur, Jacobabad, Kamber and Hyderabad districts reported 2,910, 2,011, 1,916 and 1,223 malaria cases respectively, according to the report.

The outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and chikungunya are anticipated to take place every year in the aftermath of the monsoon season and usually persist through the September to December period. Despite this, however, this year precautionary and prevention measures by the government have been held up by tussles between Sindh's ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and its political rivals. Critics have accused Sindh authorities of prioritising political interests over pressing issues such as those related to health.

Despite the roughly 5,000 cases of dengue virus reported in Sindh this year, sources told The Express Tribune that many government hospitals in the province still lack the kits to diagnose and treat the mosquito-borne disease. They complain many hospitals lack even stocks of platelets for dengue patients, among whom the numbers of the healing blood cells often drop to critically low levels. Meanwhile, in Karachi, fumigation efforts have been rendered virtually useless owing to an inconsistent spraying campaign and a dispute between city authorities and the Sindh government. In addition to accusing the latter of withholding the supply of insecticides, officials of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation have said the exercise was severely hampered due to the lack of funds. The Karachi commissioner has now ordered a new fumigation drive as volunteers and NGOs take matters into their own hands amid political wrangling. 

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2019.

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