Sindh govt finalises Rs1bn plan to fight rabies, stray dogs

Published January 26, 2020
A pack of hounds roams around a city area.—White Star
A pack of hounds roams around a city area.—White Star

KARACHI: Amid an alarming rise in dog-bite deaths across Sindh, the provincial government is finalising an over Rs1 billion programme that mainly focuses on vaccination of stray dogs to control their population, an official document said.

A report prepared by the Sindh local government department suggested that the authorities were waiting for the formal approval of the chief minister for the Rs1.07bn programme —  ‘Fight against rabies and population control of street dogs’ — which is envisaged to stay in place for three years.

The massive funding for the programme, the report said, would be allocated from “non-ADP [annual development program scheme]” with multiple components of the campaign.

The report stated that a mass rabies control programme may be adopted in Sindh on the model of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the collaboration of the livestock department.

The three-year project will be enforced after getting CM’s approval

According to the details available, the district municipal corporations (DMCs) would be asked to provide a 20-member strong staff for the programme in all districts that would operate round the clock in different shifts.

Before the programme was launched, it said, the DMCs staff would be properly trained by professional institutions and experts to carry out their task across Sindh.

The number of dog-bite cases in Sindh saw a sudden surge in 2019 amid a growing population of stray dogs, shortage of vaccines and almost non-existence of facilities in the rural parts of the province where some 25 people lost their lives after developing rabies.

The severity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) alone treated 10,850 dog-bite patients in 2019 compared to 8,000 registered in 2018.

Although health practitioners and officials believe that the entire country was running short of the anti-rabies vaccines, the situation in Sindh was quite critical as in Karachi alone more than 150 dog-bite cases are being reported to major city hospitals on a daily basis and no move is seen on the ground for the prevention of the menace and control of the population of stray dogs in the metropolis and rural areas of the province.

While the funding of over Rs1bn suggests that the Sindh government is finally making an attempt to tackle the crisis and make the province rabies free, many believe that time is running short and it is already quite late for launching any programme.

“But it’s better late than never,” said Dr Seemin Jamali, the executive director of the JPMC which treated the highest number of dog-bite patients last year. “In most cases referred from the rural parts of the province we witness no immunisation is done and the victims died terribly.

“There should be a collective effort for a rabies-free Sindh. It is so unfortunate that children are the major victims of stray dogs, both in urban and rural Sindh. If we don’t move now it can become a much bigger challenge in the days to come,” she opined.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2020

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