More than 80pc of Punjab health facilities lack anti-rabies vaccine

Updated December 05, 2019

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Stray dogs have killed 11 people and injured 3,034 in Punjab during the last 10 months, says an official report.   — Indus Hospital/File
Stray dogs have killed 11 people and injured 3,034 in Punjab during the last 10 months, says an official report. — Indus Hospital/File

LAHORE: Stray dogs have killed 11 people and injured 3,034 in Punjab during the last 10 months, says an official report.

Even more disturbing is the fact that anti-rabies vaccine (ARV) is not available at 1,732 (83 per cent) of the total small and major public sector hospitals of the province.

The report covers the dog-bite deaths and injuries that occurred from Jan 1 to Oct 31, 2019 (i.e 304 days).

A summary to the effect has been sent by the Special Branch Punjab to Chief Minister Usman Buzdar with a special note ‘crisis of both drug’s shortage and dog-bite incidents is deepening in Punjab particularly due to painful deaths and life-time psychological issues the victims and their families were suffering’.

Recently, the killing of minor children in Sindh and unavailability of ARV at the province’s most public sector hospitals hit the headlines, inviting strong criticism.

Special Branch report says stray dogs have killed 11 in 10 months

About Punjab, the report unveiled that the victims are mostly children of ages between 3 and 12 years, and women and elderly citizens who are unable to save themselves from packs of stray dogs which are usually found roaming around poultry farms, filth depots, at isolated places/passages, slaughterhouses, wedding halls/marquees.

The Special Branch Punjab reported that there is a general perception that the entire country is running short of the ARV and the situation in the largest province is turning from bad to worse with every passing day. The vaccine is used to cure animal bites, usually dogs, which the victims need five times within first 28 days of the dog attack.

“It is evident that the victims have unnecessarily died of painful death which must have left deep impact on their families, their relatives and people of the areas concerned,” reads the report. It calculated the ratio saying the stray dogs are biting on average 10 people daily all over the province.

In its report, the Agency regretted that apparently no move is seen on ground for the prevention of this menace – neither for control of the population of stray dogs in the rural and urban areas of the province nor to address chronic shortage of anti-rabies vaccine.

“As the number of dog-bite incidents are going on unnoticed, the above horrific incidents are quite serious in nature because people claim that the population of stray dogs in Punjab especially in rural areas is on the rise,” reads the report.

It further stated that as the packs of dogs could be seen everywhere posing a grave threat to the people, the unavailability of ARV in public sector health facilities is a matter of serious concern.

“During the course of the survey, it has transpired that unavailability of anti-rabies vaccine in most government health facilities across the province is endangering the lives of people bitten by stray dogs.”

Out of the total 2,091 state-run health facilities, the ARV is not available in two teaching hospitals, five district headquarters hospitals, 27 tehsil headquarters hospitals, 1,621 basic health units and 77 rural health centres of Punjab.

According to the region wise details, Multan is on top where 300 major and small hospitals have no vaccine for dog-bite victims followed by Gujranwala with 258 such health facilities, Sahiwal (236), Bahawalpur (231) and DG Khan (204).

Among the districts where maximum number of state-run hospitals are without vaccine are Okara with 105 health facilities followed by Rahim Yar Khan (104), Rawalpindi (98), Kasur (94) and Gujrat (92).

About the districts which have reported maximum number of injured persons due to stray dog attacks, the special branch Punjab stated that Gujranwala is on top with 740 people followed by Mianwali (422) and Lodhran (359).

About deaths, it reported that five occurred in Rahim Yar Khan while one each in Gujranwala, Sialkot, Attock, Bhakkar, Faisalabad and Sahiwal.

The report recommended emergent measures to address issues to prevent more deaths and injuries to the persons particularly the children from the packs of stray dogs.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2019