Down with dengue in the flood-affected areas

While working for flood relief at Jhang some days ago I came down with dengue/malaria fever.

Syeda Abida Hussain September 05, 2010

While working for flood relief at Jhang some days ago I came down with dengue/malaria fever. This was a dreadful physical experience. And to add to my misery, my husband Fakhar Imam also came down with malaria at the same time. It was clearly that he had contracted the disease from working with the flood victims at Kabirwala and Khanewal. In our sixties, we can no longer take good health for granted, but it is difficult to focus on oneself when surrounded by a sea of hapless, helpless and ignorant people.

Local doctors in the flood-affected areas are short of required medicines and are having to cope with outbreaks of typhoid, cholera and dengue/malaria. The WHO personnel in our country have their work cut out for them, to supply the much-needed drugs to the flood-affected districts, to liase effectively with the district administrations, to mobilise the medics available locally and to ensure that the drugs are not sold to private clinics because that would mean that the whole purpose of donating them would be defeated.

Before the fever hit me, my faith in the inherent goodness of human nature was reaffirmed when I was distributing relief goods among flood victims since, by and large, they were honest and precise about what losses they had incurred, and they took the tents and cartons of biscuits being handed to them in a fairly orderly manner. It was when the cash was being distributed to the women and children that order broke down somewhat, understandably, as the children were too many, and their mothers clearly driven by deep insecurity. Dr Rizwana from the Syed Abid Hussain Memorial Trust Hospital at Jhang was absolutely heroic as she sought to motivate the mothers to get themselves and their children vaccinated with the vaccines that we had procured for them.

As I shivered with the onset of the dengue, fleeing to Lahore under the doctor’s advice, an equally-shivering Fakhar Imam joined me there. He was however lucky because malaria allows for a far quicker recovery as opposed to dengue which takes longer. In our misery, we both received scores of phone calls, from supporters in our respective districts, telling us that a large number of people were running high fevers, shivering and heaped under blankets or quilts, in this hot and humid weather. Most of our district officers were slow in the relief effort because the majority of them were too young when we had had our last mega-flood some 22 years ago. There was little guidance available, no manuals to refer to and no seniors to consult. What we did however see were seemingly messianic anchors accusatory in the extreme, relentlessly harping on the absence of administration, on VIP visitors seeking protocol and so on.

The district administrations have had few to cheer them along. The public representatives are often nowhere to be found and this only adds to the public criticism of the government response.

Local doctors have worked sporadically thus far but the epidemics can be contained by them if they are given the required support. One of the many things that the floods have brought up is that we have our fair share of armchair critics and pundits but sadly they lack a sense of proportion.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2010.


cmsarwar | 11 years ago | Reply It is sad Madam Abida and Mr.Fakhar Imam caught high fever while doing relief work in highly unfamiliar and hostile surroundings.I am glad they made it to Lahore and would hopefully get well very soon.My humble request to both of you is:please do not take unnecessary and avoidable risks.You are so precious and we cannot afford to waste both of you in the heat of this moment which will pass sooner or later.I am glad you have not shown any intentions to plan any future activity in this matter.Please get well soon.
Saleem H. Ali | 11 years ago | Reply Glad to learn that veteran politicians are in the field helping those in need. I do hope your doctors were able to differentiate between Dengue and Malaria -- you appear to conflate the two. Your symptoms appear to have been malaria rather than Dengue (which is often more lethal and caused by a virus rather than a protozoan which causes malaria). Even the mosquitoes which carry them are from different species. Dengue sounds more exotic, but I really think you got the garden variety malaria which has a fairly high survival rate in Pakistan.
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