KARACHI: Sindh Health Minister Azra Pechuho on Tuesday informed the provincial legislature that more than 92,000 cases of dog bite had been reported across Sindh during the year; adding that the tension with neighbouring India had created a serious shortage of its vaccine as a Chinese company had closed its operations.
“Dog bite is a serious problem and rabies is highly dangerous and such matters need serious thought to strategise our plan to protect our people,” said the minister while speaking at a private resolution moved by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Seema Zia.
Her resolution demanded that the Sindh government ensure availability of uninterrupted supply of anti-rabies or dog bite vaccine at all health facilities across the province.
‘Controlling dog population is only solution to get rid of life-threatening rabies infection’
Dr Pechuho said rabies was not caused by just a rabid dog, but in many parts of the province it was also inflicted by rabid jackals, etc.
She said 92,159 cases of dog bites had been reported from across the province till June 30; while the hospitals had 6,029 vials of vaccine in stock. “The Chinese company from where we would purchase this vaccine has been closed down because rabies had been eradicated in China. In India, we cannot get this vaccine at present because of serious constraints over Kashmir issue,” said the minister.
She said the controlling dogs’ population was the only solution to get rid of the life-threatening infection.
Commenting on certain recommendations that were furnished by various lawmakers earlier, Dr Pechuho said even after vaccination, it was hard to know about which dogs were vaccinated because they were social animals which moved in packs. She said most victims of dogs were children because children were physically vulnerable to save themselves from dangerous attacks by stray dogs.
She said vaccinating or neutering dogs were the methods that were not cost effective. Still, efforts were needed to be taken to control alarming increase in their population.
She said the local government ministry and the municipal bodies in Sindh had the primary mandate to take up the issue, which had become terrifying nowadays.
“The increasing population of dogs is much graver problem in our urban areas since cities host congested populations that could not live when so many stray dogs were roaming free in our neighbourhoods. This issue has turned into a menace now,” said the minister.
She said she held great respect for animal rights activists, yet, the problem had to be sorted out by keeping in all nuances in mind.
The health minister refuted the statements by certain members from the opposition benches which claimed anti-snake venom vaccine was not available in most hospitals including the ones located in Dr Pechuho’s constituency in Benazirabad. She said it was universally available across the province.
Earlier, mover of the resolution, Dr Zia, said the government should invest in sterilising the stray animals, which was cost effective than spending money on vaccination against rabies.
She said instead of killing dogs, the authorities should focus on sterilising them. She referred to a neighbour of her who was an animal lover who had domesticated many stray dogs roaming in their vicinity.
She said around 69,000 cases of dog bite had been reported in Sindh last year.
“More than 100 cases are being reported in the city’s hospitals alone,” said Dr Zia.
Her colleague in PTI, Khurrum Sher Zaman said more than 80 dogs strayed in every ward of the city’s 235 union councils.
He claimed that barring Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, vaccine for dog bite was not available in any government-run health facility.
Muhammad Ali Aziz said more than 250,000 stray dogs were in Karachi.
MPA Allah Bakhsh Talpur said his constituency in Badin district was also seriously affected by the incidence of dog bite. He added vaccine for dog bite was not available in the rural health centres. Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Mangla Sharma claimed that most cases of dog bite were reported from Benazirabad and Larkana districts.
She added more than 12,000 cases of dog bite had been reported from Benazirabad while 4,000 cases were reported from Shikarpur, 2,750 from Jacobabad, 7,000 from Dadu and more than 1,000 from Thatta district.
PTI’s Imran Ali Shah said the Sindh government should look elsewhere to purchase anti-rabies vaccine, if it could not be purchased from India.
He said he had spotted 29 dogs around Ruth Pfau CHK during a recent survey of the hospital.
Grand Democratic Alliance’s Nand Kumar said increasing incidence of dog bite cases was a clear indication that the government had failed in its job to protect people from all sorts of dangers.
He said the resolution should also include a similar demand for universal availability of snake bite venom vaccine.
PTI’s parliamentary leader Haleem Shaikh claimed vaccine for dog bite and snake bite was not available in the constituency of the health minister.
‘Dogs should be exported to the countries where people eat them’
His colleague Jamal Siddiqui said stray dogs were useless animals, who could only harm humans; adding colonies of stray dogs were present everywhere in the province. He said those dogs should be caught and exported to the countries where people ate dog meat.
Later, Khurrum Sher Zaman demanded Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari, who was in the chair, to ask Local Government Minister Nasir Shah furnish his statement over the issue.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Chawla said no PTI member could dictate the treasury benches when to speak and when not because “it is Sindh Assembly and not the National Assembly”.
During the altercation between Minister Chawla and some PTI members, the chair put the resolution before the house and got it passed unanimously.
Earlier, PTI’s Muhammad Ali Aziz moved a privilege motion in which he accused the deputy commissioner of Karachi West district and an assistant commissioner who allegedly misbehaving with him that breached his privilege.
Speaker Siraj Durrani asked the government to form a select committee to investigate into the statement of an elected MPA.
Minister Chawla sought time till Saturday to investigate into the issue which the chair granted.
Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2019