Locals claim an outbreak of measles in Ambar tehsil of Mohmand Agency has killed six children. Officials confirmed the death of two of the children, but said they died because of an unconfirmed disease.
Local Qari Ali Gul told The Express Tribune on Saturday that the disease has struck the areas of Gumbati, Shaji Kor, Soor Tangi, Bakhmal Shah, Musa Kor and Khairo Kor, and has affected a large number of tribesmen. Another local, Mushtaq Khan, said that affected children were taken to Khar Hospital in Bajaur Agency.
They said that the residents informed the agency surgeon to send inoculation teams to control the spread of the disease. They also urged the government to send mobile vaccination teams and said the situation may become uncontrollable if prompt action was not taken.
An Expanded Programme on Immunisation Mohmand Agency Officer, Dr Shabeer, denied the spread of the disease and the cause of the deaths. “Two deaths have been reported in Ambar and Utmanzai but by an unknown disease, we cannot confirm they were caused by measles,” he said. He added that the areas further away lack qualified doctors and people depend on unqualified doctors. “The scarcity of proper health facilities worsens the situation in these circumstances,” he said.
He claimed the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) child heath project had worked in three community health centres, one in Daravo, one in Had Kor and one in Shati Meena.
Ambar is a tehsil of the agency bordering Bajaur Agency. The area lacks basic amenities regularly, and has only one high and middle school with most residents going to schools in Charsadda.
In June, 211 children with symptoms of measles were brought to the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) Peshawar from different areas of K-P and Fata. Hospital data revealed that a total of 989 cases of measles were brought to the LRH over the past six months, of which 884 were discharged and 44 had died. Nine patients left the hospital against doctors’ advice.
A study conducted by Dr Majid Khan and Dr Tariq Anwar at LRH from November 1, 2011, to May 22 this year, revealed that the measles outbreak in K-P and Fata was a result of poor vaccination campaigns, military conflict, migration and malnutrition in the area.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Dr Khan explained that measles was an infectious viral disease that could easily spread through migrating people, especially if they have a weak immunity due to inadequate food intake. He said the hospital has received children as young as four months suffering from measles.
Khan explained that children younger than nine months usually do not get measles as they have antibodies transmitted from their mothers during pregnancy. This shows that the mothers did not receive proper nutrition.
Measles is highly contagious and spread by a virus that is easily prevented by proper immunisation but can be fatal. It caused nearly 140,000 deaths worldwide in 2010, according to the World Health Organisation – 95% in low income countries with poor health infrastructure.
(Additional reporting by our correspondent in Peshawar)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2012.