Balochistan health woes: Govt lukewarm over measles threat as toll hits 22

Health dept fails to release Rs137 million required for vaccination campaign

Shezad Baloch November 24, 2014

QUETTA: The Balochistan government has failed to release Rs137 million for an anti-measles campaign despite the disease having claimed the lives of 22 children in the province and affected over 1,350 children this year alone.

According to estimates, over four million children are at risk due to the lack of proper vaccination against measles, with an alarming outbreak of the contagious infection in Zhob, Qila Abdullah, Lesbela, Pishin, Kalat, Ziarat, Chagai and other parts of the province.

“At least 43 children died last year and 22 children died this year,” a senior official of the provincial health department told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity. “It’s been more than a year and the government has not taken the issue seriously,” the official said, adding that the deaths were not even being reported.

“The proposal [for a vaccination campaign] was submitted to the health department a year ago but they are yet to release the required funds,” he said. “Around 4.4 million children between the age of six and 10 need to be vaccinated under the project.”

“Officials had reminded the health department and other officials about the delay but there is a lukewarm response to this very serious issue of child health,” he added.

The campaign, designed in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Vaccine (Gavi), has been awaiting a formal launch due to the delay on the part of the health department.

Gavi had arranged their share in the funds, which is 52% or Rs 148 million, in June 2013 but the provincial government is yet to release its 48% share amounting to Rs137 million.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Provincial Health Secretary Arshad Bugti said that they were waiting for funds to launch a vaccination campaign. Provincial Minister Rehmat Saleh said the government would launch the campaign in December.

Sources said international donors also censured the Balochistan government for not allocating the amount to address the issue. According to the Health Department, merely 16% children across the province are fully immunised against nine diseases, including polio and measles, leaving the rest of the children vulnerable to fatal diseases.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2014.


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