MINGORA: Swat and its surrounding areas are once again grappling with public health issues – this time dengue and cholera.
The tenth case of dengue was reported in Swat on Wednesday. What could be the beginning of a cholera epidemic in Kalam Valley has landed as many as 50 people in the local basic health unit (BHU) in one day.
Saifullah, a resident of Kalam, said he and six of his family members had been suffering from cholera for the last three days. “We went to the local BHU. However, it was closed,” he said. The family then sought treatment at a private clinic.
Abdul Mateen, another resident of Kalam, was shifted to Saidu Teaching Hospital (STH), in Mingora along with his family for treatment of the same disease. Mateen said the epidemic has created a lot of problems in the area. “Most people cannot afford to travel to Mingora for treatment. Therefore, recovery has become an uphill task,” he added.
Not prepared for visitors
Cholera started to spread because of the negligence of the government, Mateen alleged.
Explaining his point of view, he said, “The government holds festivals in Kalam, attracting thousands of people to the valley. However, it does not provide them with facilities to dispose of garbage and waste.” Due to the increasing number of tourists in Kalam, “the valley now looks like a heap of garbage,” said Mateen. This, he added, resulted in the spread of different diseases such as cholera.
Hassan Wali, an elder, said he also helped shift approximately a dozen people to Mingora who were all admitted in STH. “The government needs to pay attention to their plight,” said Wali. “If the epidemic is not brought under control, it will start spreading towards Mingora and can cause deaths,” he said.
Plan of action
District Health Officer Dr Syed Ali Khan told The Express Tribune some areas of Kalam were difficult to reach due to the dilapidated condition of roads there. “Therefore health officials were not able to launch an awareness campaign against the disease in time.” He said cholera spreads due to contaminated food and water in the area, adding the district health office has dispatched a team in the form of a mobile unit to facilitate treatment those facing the disease. The DHO also said the district government should penalise tourists who litter around, causing the spread of such diseases.
Three new cases of dengue were reported on Wednesday, increasing the count to ten. Two of the newly-admitted patients at STH were said to be in critical condition.
Eighteen-year-old Nazia Bibi belongs to Gumbat Mera, located on the outskirts of Mingora, while the other patient is identified as Johar, a resident of Kohistan. Both have been admitted to STH for dengue fever, said an official from STH. The other case of dengue has been reported from Qunj Barama, “an area from where only a handful cases had been reported in the past,” the official added. He said the health officials are actively working to combat the disease.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2015.