KARACHI: Expressing his utter dismay over the recent HIV scare in Larkana, the Pakistan Peoples Party’s political headquarters, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Monday ordered a crackdown on the “spurious blood banks” across Sindh, and the rehabilitation of drug dependent people “wherever they are found”, officials said.

Presiding over a series of meetings at CM House pertaining to the health delivery system, Mr Shah said he would not allow anyone to play with the lives of the poor.

“This is unacceptable. Take strict action against those involved and report to me,” he told the minister and secretary of the health ministry.

He asked the health ministry to awaken the Sindh Aids Control Programme (SACP).

“What are they doing when such a high number of Aids cases are being reported in Larkana division,” he said.

Secretary Health, Usman Chachar, told the chief minister that there were around 1,500 cases of HIV/Aids in Larkana. He claimed that the attribution of the recent spread of cases to dialysis machines “is not correct”.

Although the inquiry conducted by the SACP and the Sindh Blood Transmission Authority had clearly held the Chandka Medical College Hospital responsible along with ‘illegal’ blood banks in the region, the senior official had other opinion to rest on. He said findings of the report blamed illegal blood banks and laboratories for the spread of HIV/Aids. The teams raided and sealed a number of blood banks and labs.

Health minister, Sikander Mandhro said the other cause behind the HIV spread in Larkana was the use of syringes by the heroin addicts.

CM Shah ordered the excise and narcotics ministry to launch a campaign against those selling narcotics in Larkana and other parts of Sindh.

“The SACP must take action and start treatment of addicts by picking them wherever they are found,” he said.

Dengue

Mr Shah also asked the ministry to take measures to provide dengue kits to Thar and Karachi to timely diagnose and cure the viral disease.

Officials said 1,713 cases of dengue had been reported in Sindh, of them 1,510 cases, including three deaths, were documented in Karachi alone. Some 68 cases were reported from Hyderabad and 88 from Thar.

Minister Mandhro said out of 88 cases reported from Thar, 84 were already treated and discharged in Hyderabad health facilities. The rest of four were too fine and would be discharged soon.

Giving reasons behind the spread of dengue in Thar, Dr Mandhro said that people there stored water in tanks and earthen pots. The dengue mosquito tends to lay eggs in clean and stored water which the villagers use for drinking and other purposes.

He said that most people from Thar worked in Karachi and visited their villages frequently. “They also carry dengue infection back to their villages.”

The health minister said the Dengue Control Programme had taken samples of water stored in various parts of Karachi, including the zoo, and found them infected with dengue seedlings (larvae). “They killed them by pouring chemical into the tanks and now it is safe.”

The chief minister was informed that the dengue control programme had purchased 17,000 kits, which they had begun distributing in the affected neighbourhoods and districts.

“Dengue is not a fatal disease. A normal person has 300,000 platelets. Its treatment is not different from normal fever but doctors have to ensure that the number of platelets of the patient should not drop to 20,000 or low as then it turns fatal,” said health secretary.

The chief minister asked the ministry to ensure timely treatment to dengue patients. He also issued orders to the commissioners and concerned municipalities for extensive fumigation in Karachi, Hyderabad and Thar.

Polio

Speaking to media after launching the anti-polio campaign by administering polio drops to children at the Government Hospital Ibrahim Hyderi, Mr Shah said he had owned the campaign with the commitment to eradicate the crippling disease from Sindh as soo as possible.

“I have owned the campaign, that’s why I have come here to launch the drive,” he said, adding that the campaign would target 8.3 million children aged five or less across Sindh, including 2.2 million in Karachi.

He regretted that still five cases, out of 15 from Pakistan, were reported from Sindh. “But, we are committed to controlling them in the first phase and eradicate it in the second phase by launching extensive campaigns.”

He urged parents to immunise their children.

He brushed aside the reports published in a section of the media claiming the use of expired polio vaccine. “I am not a doctor, but I know that when the vaccine expires, its colour changes and for the purpose lady health workers have been given necessary training,” he said.

He expressed dismay over reports that heroin and narcotics were being openly sold in Ibrahim Hyderi, Rerhi and Lath Basti villages. He said gutka, manpuri etcetera had been banned and asked the area SSP to stop the racket.

Provincial finance commission

Replying to a question, the chief minister said the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) was being formed.

“I have received a file about the PFC a day earlier and I am personally working to constitute it at the earliest so that necessary funds can be released to local bodies.”

He, however, said his government had provided ‘enough funds’ to the municipalities, adding that certain municipalities, particularly the union councils and district councils, had the issue of bank accounts. “Once they open accounts the problem of transferring funds to them would be solved.”

He also said that the chairmen of the educational boards would be appointed through search committees.

Published in Dawn October 25th, 2016