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A new type of monster

Waterborne diseases grip Sindh where mosquitoes are multiplying and public hospitals are slow to act

By Sameer Mandhro |
PUBLISHED September 25, 2022
KARACHI:

For Heboo, malaria is a new disease that has hit her three out of four children. To treat them it well, she immediately visited a private clinic in Sakrand. "It was a bit expensive but I wanted my kids to recover fast," said Heboo.

Since the floods destroyed her village, Heboo has been living in a road side makeshift camp near Sakrand city of Nawabshah district. "It is not so easy to keep away these monsters," she says about the mosquitoes.

"They literally make you mad," commented Pahlwan Bheel, Heboo's relative. "They start coming even before sunset," he added.

The road-side flood victims complain of mosquitoes making their problems even worse as it keeps them from sleeping and has been causing sickness in the campness. Not only government hospitals but medical camps arranged by different philanthropists and non-governmental organisations confirm majority of the patients, including children were brought to them with fever.

The health department's data shows that over 4,000 malaria cases are being reported daily. It says that 162,395 confirmed cases have been reported in the province throughout the year.

"I see daily 90 percent of patients are malaria positive," revealed a laboratory technician at Damdama stop, near the left side of the Indus River in Sujawal district.

The doctors said that the flood victims were directly exposed to the weather. "They do not have mosquitoes nets," said the doctor at a medical camp in the outskirts of Hyderabad district. "They cannot afford mosquito repellent either," he added.

On the other hand, the flood affectees who have lost everything during the heavy rains followed by the floods, tried to save their kids and livestock from mosquitoes burning the waste.

"It doesn't work the whole night and daily but it is the only option to get some relief," Usman Marree, a flood victim in the outskirts of Nawabshah said. He said they tried to arrange even some plastic and waste from other areas.

Similarly, the number of patients with dengue fever have gone up in last two weeks.

The data of heath department confirms that 4,319 dengue patients have been reported in September alone while previously the number since January was 6,888.

At least 30 persons have also died from dengue fever and all of the deaths were officially reported in Karachi.

The health department has not shown deaths from other districts.

Khalid Hossein, whose friend, Zeeshan Yaseen, has reportedly died because of dengue fever on September 15 in Hyderabad. "He tested dengue positive," he told The Express Tribune. Zeeshan was 28 yearsold. "Mosquitoes are very dangerous now and they are killing us," he added.

He also added, "Out of our nine family members in Larkano, eight were malaria positive just in a week. In many areas, people even got malaria and dengue fever despite taking all precautionary measures.”

The districts that fall on the right side of the River, including Larkano, Dadu, Qambar-Shehdadkot or Jamshoro, the situation seemed worst as the water coming from Hamal Lake and Manchhar Lake that have already inundated several areas. Thousands of people either have been living in road side camps. Several families who have not moved out also complain about the sudden rise of different diseases including diarrheaĜŒ skin infections and fever after rains and floods.

The official records said that the number of diarrhea cases has reached at 605,839 while 666,370 cases of skin diseases have been reported in all the districts.

The internally displaced persons have been either using rain and flood waters as alternate mean of potable water and taking bath and washing their cloths.

"It's clean water because it's running water," said Bagi, an IDP living near Sehwan city.

Bagi regularly washes her family's cloths and take bath along with her other community women without knowing the Manchhar Lake water was toxic and can cause various waterborne diseases.

"Where should I wash my clothes and take bath," she questionec. "We poor cannot afford to purchase 'purified' water," she smiled while washing the clothes.

The worst situation has been observed in the districts on the left bank of the river, including Khairpur Mirs, Naushero ferzoze, Nawabshah, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot, Badin and others.

The coulor of the water has been changed from green to blackish, creating smells in the area. People living near to stagnant waters said that the situation was regularly creating hardships for them. They also believe that the stagnant water was multipllyng diseases.

Similarly, stray dogs were seen eating the dead livestock lying near roads and water canals.

"This is another disaster in making," commented Akram Ali Khasekheli, a resident of Nawabshah city.

Khasekheli works for the rights of peasants for last over 10 years. He said the most vulnerable people were daily wagers and peasants. "First they were displaced from their homes and now are facing different challenges like waterborne diseases," he explained. He said that a very small chunk of affected families have moved to cities. "They water available near to them and I fear there will be a critical situation in coming days if this issue remained unattended," he pointed out.

Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, the general secretary of Pakistan Medical Association, Karachi challenges government's data. "It's a huge disaster," he said. "The government has no capacity to reach all areas and collect data of deaths and patients suffering from various diseases," he said.

Dr Shoro said that those who died at private clinics and in their villages because of rain related diseases were not being reported by the authorities. "The number of deaths and patients could be double," he claimed. He said that he has witnessed 2000 to 3000 people in a single medical camp at various points. "They need immediate relief and medication," he said. "I am seeing another disaster in making if the government doesn't take a prompt response to the current situation," he warned.

One more death caused by the denagur fever has officially been reported in the province. The health department said that a male has died in Hyderabad.

An official of the health department said that it was beyond the capacity of the government to handle the catastrophe. "The human resources aren't enough," he pointed out.

It has also surfaced that during the rain emergency, several staff did not attend their duties despite warning. The spokesperson of the department said that the services of 29 doctors of BPS-17 and 17 doctors of BPS-18 while three staff nurse of BPS-16 have been terminated due to this reason.

It was also learnt that due to overburden of the patients, temporary staff has also been hired. Despite efforts shown by the government, the flood affectees have alleged that the hospitals have not been able to provide them medicine.

"My daughter has been suffering from fever and diarrhea for the last three days," said Sughra, a flood victim in Sehwan's Lal Bagh camp. "The government hospital did not give me proper medicine and I cannot afford the expenses of a private hospital," she added.

Out of total 1,082 health facilities across Sindh, 165 have completely submerged and damaged while 917 are partially damaged due to heavy rains and floods. The health authorities claimed they had set up temporary camps near the damaged hospitals but in several areas, the patients preferred to go to the private hospitals.

"My cousin got diarrhea and we shifted him to a private clinic in Nawabshah," a resident of Kazi Ahmed said. He said that the hospital in his two was submerged in rain water. "They had relocated the 'temporary' hospital to three places and how are common people coming from far flung areas supposed to find it," he questioned, criticising authorities about indifferent attitudes during the calamity.

Similarly, a mother admitted in a ward of Nawabshah's Mother and Child Hospital told The Express Tribune that her two years old son got an infection and was brought to the hospital two weeks ago. "He is not improving and I am worried about his health," she said.

Pointing out red spots on body, she said that doctors did not guide her properly. "I cannot afford private hospitals and I do not have any other options,she said.

Narrating the story, she said that her son was completely fit before the rains. He got fever and then infections on his body. I have been trying to struggle but don't see any other way. She said that the recent rains have devastated he