LAHORE: Thirty-seven nutritionists hired by the city government last year to educate school children about public health issues have yet to visit a single school since the outbreak of dengue fever, The Express Tribune has learnt.
These nutritionists were among hundreds hired at grade 17 and paid for by a loan from the Asian Development Bank under the Health Sector Reform Programme of the Health Department, said sources in the department. The project director of the Health Sector Reform Programme was not available for comment.
“We are starting visits tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Dr Haq Nawaz Bherwana, the district health officer of Lahore. “Health education is the most important thing in the eradication of any epidemic disease,” he added. The number of dengue patients in Pakistan has been rising rapidly for about a month.
Dr Bharwana said that the city district government’s health wing had started to fumigate schools.
He said that the 37 health nutritionists would educate thousands of students at 730 public and private schools in the city.
The Health Department sources alleged that the nutritionists were not recruited on merit.
\They said that their basic function was to raise awareness about health issues in educational institutions.
The Heath Department’s 24-hour helpline has addressed more than 400 queries, ranging from complaints about treatment in government hospitals to questions about precautions against dengue, since the helpline was opened, said the sources.
Most of these complaints related to anti-mosquito spraying, while a number of patients called to seek guidance from doctors about the symptoms of dengue fever and preventive measures. The complaints came from across Punjab, but mainly Lahore.
160 new cases
According to the Communicable Diseases Control Cell of the Health Department, 147 new cases of dengue fever were reported in Lahore and 23 in other districts of the province during the last 24 hours.
A total of 1,998 patients have returned to their homes after recovering, while 170 are still under treatment in various hospitals. Of the 2,129 dengue cases reported in the Punjab, 1,825 were in Lahore.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2010.
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