KARACHI: Cases of diarrheal diseases, including cholera, have shown no let up in Karachi as well as in the interior parts of Sindh, stated health professionals on Monday while calling upon the government to ensure proper filtration of drinking water and upgrade of the sanitation system.

“The feedback we are getting from the public sector hospitals in Karachi shows that at least 30 to 40 cases of diarrheal diseases especially cholera are being reported there daily,” said Dr Waseem Jamalvi representing the Pakistan Paediatric Association-Sindh.

The cases were being reported more among young children, he added.

Asked about how serious the problem was in the interior parts of Sindh, Dr Ali Akbar Siyal, who is associated with the government-run Maternal and Child Health Centre in Shaheed Benazirabad district, said: “The situation has worsened. Today, we have received 66 cases. The facility has admitted 532 cases since May 1 out of which 66 per cent were of cholera. All of them have been discharge and there was no mortality.”

Dr Siyal agreed with the perception that this year cases of diarrheal diseases were a bit high. “It might be linked to heatwaves as germs responsible for causing these illnesses spread more in this weather. Also, in hot summer days, the general public, especially children, usually drink unclean water to quench their thirst and eat uncovered unsafe food being sold in the market.”

Speaking about the public health situation in lower Sindh currently facing an acute shortage of water, Dr Suresh Kumar, a general physician practicing in Mirpur Bathoro, a taluka of Sujawal district, said half of the patients he daily examined at his clinic were of diarrheal diseases, affecting children in a greater number.

“Apart from shortage of water and contaminated sources of water supplies what makes the problem worse is poverty and illiteracy. People don’t have the means or knowledge for making water safe,” he said, adding that majority of people relied on irrigation channels for drinking water or wells and had no concept of boiling water.

Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro at the Pakistan Medical Association was of the opinion that the spread of diarrheal diseases on a large scale indicated that the problem existed in the water supply and distribution system.

“When a city like Karachi has no system for providing clean drinking water, it’s not hard to imagine what would be the situation like in the interior parts of Sindh,” he said, regretting that the burden of diseases had compounded miseries of the general public already suffering due to heatwaves and rising inflation.

Suggesting an upgrade of sanitation system, he said leaking gutter lines, and mixing of water and drainage lines needed to be fixed on priority.

No health department official was available for comment.

Previous month concern was officially raised over the growing number of cholera cases in the province. The Sindh health director general had sent a communiqué to all district health officers (DHOs) asking them to keep hospitals under their authority ready and engage local communities to combat the growing number of cholera cases.

The letter was sent after the health secretary took a “serious notice of the upsurge in the cases of acute watery diarrhoea among children below and above the age of five years”.

The DG health wrote to DHOs: “Under the terms of International Health Regulations [IHR] 2005, cholera is one of the 34 diseases which are mandatory to be notified. In this context, you are requested to notify any suspected case of cholera, confirmed cases of cholera and any death caused by cholera as per guidelines of IHR 2005.”

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2022

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