KARACHI-Caretaker Chief Minister Sindh Justice (Retd.) Maqbool Baqir, while taking notice of increasing malaria cases across the province here on Sunday, directed the Health Department and Local Government (LG) Department to take necessary measures to control the disease in a week. He said that most of the cases were being reported from Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Larkana and Sukkur divisions.
The caretaker CM directed the Health Department to launch a campaign against the elimination of malaria. Baqar also directed to make arrangements for the availability of malaria drugs and wards in all government hospitals. He said that the LG department should start spraying mosquito killers in their respective areas. He further said that the Solid Waste Management Board should improve sanitation. Official figures — often disputed by independent health experts who considered it as the tip of the iceberg — showed that 286,317 cases of high fever were reported at health facilities in the province this month. Of them, 64,519 patients tested positive for malaria — an increase of 31 per cent as compared to last month, which saw 49,112 cases.
Provincial Director General of Health Dr Irshad Memon has linked the surge in malaria cases to standing floodwater (in some districts) and poor sanitation conditions in the rest of the province. In a statement issued today by his spokesman, Abdul Rasheed Channa, the chief minister ordered that the number of malaria cases be “brought under control within a week”. Noting that there had been a rise in these cases in Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Larkana and Sukkur divisions, Justice Baqar directed the health and home departments of these divisions to take “necessary steps” to combat the spread of infections. While ordering the health department to start an anti-malaria campaign, the chief minister also instructed that arrangements be made in all government hospitals to ensure malaria wards and supply of related medicines. The interim minister directed the home department to conduct mosquito-repellent spray drives in various areas while the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board was told to improve the hygiene mechanism.
NUMBER OF CASES
Most of the cases, according to the official data, were reported in Hyderabad division (31,891) followed by Mirpurkhas division (18,553), Larkana division (8,476), Sukkur division (2,595), Shaheed Benaziarabad (2,530) and Karachi division (474). The most affected districts were Thatta (10,182) followed by Mirpurkhas (9,621), Umarkot (6,195), Hyderabad (6,531), Larkana (4,512), Dadu (3,188), Shikarpur (2,000) Jamshoro (2,242) Badin (4,399), Sujawal (2,681), Tando Allah Yar (1,202) and Tharparkar (2,737).
Official figures show that there has been a gradual increase in malaria cases over the months and the province has reported 247,799 malaria cases from January till August.
The official data also showed Malir district as the most affected in Karachi, reporting 474 malaria cases this month.
Speaking to media, doctors practising in different parts of the city had stated that the official figure underestimated the situation and that the actual number of cases in Karachi was much higher, though smaller in numbers as compared to the cases in the interior parts of Sindh. “Malaria cases are on the rise across Karachi. I don’t think that official stats represent the real picture,” Dr Altaf Hussain Khatri, a senior general physician, said, adding that he had been examining at least three to four patients of malaria daily since the start of this month at his clinic located in the old city area. “And, it’s only about one clinic. One can safely assume a similar pattern exists in other parts of the city,” Dr Khatri, also heading the Pakistan Medical Association, Karachi chapter, shared, adding that he received patients from Gadap and Hub Chowki areas as well. Seconding his opinion, Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro representing PMA-Centre and senior Karachi-based general physician, said that often patients didn’t opt for laboratory diagnosis due to financial constraints. “The recent unprecedented inflation has compounded poor men’s miseries. Many of them prefer to have a provisional diagnosis and spend money on the medicine rather than having a laboratory diagnosis,” he said. According to Dr Shoro, the situation with respect to malaria and other infections such as typhoid is more serious in the interior parts of the province especially lower Sindh, particularly Keti Bandar, where people were forced to live in subhuman conditions.
“The public health situation is worrisome in areas where floodwater is still standing and doctors frequently report cases of vector-borne diseases.”