PESHAWAR: The finance department is yet to release emergency funds for prevention and control of dengue fever amid fear of outbreak of the disease due to torrential rains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Sources said that situation with regard to the mosquito-borne ailment was under control but could snowball into major outbreak in the wake of monsoon season and suspension of power supply due to which people were compelled to store water and provide breeding grounds to mosquitoes.

So far, the province has recorded 213 confirmed cases in 22 districts, including 45 in high-risk Peshawar, 39 in Dera Ismail Khan, 29 in Khyber and 24 in Haripur but the situation shows that the province is endemic to the virus.

As per record, in 2017, the health department registered 25,243 dengue cases, 1,019 cases in 2018, 7,082 cases in 2019, 69 cases in 2020 and 10,615 cases in 2021. “It means the province is endemic to the virus and requires measures to prevent outbreaks,” sources said.

Officials fear outbreak of disease due to rains and power outages

In February, Chief Secretary Dr Shahzad Khan Bangash sanctioned Rs170 million emergency funds for dengue control and prevention after health department made a presentation regarding the situation in the province.

However, the funds have not been released and health authorities at the district level are concerned that they require procuring bed nets, medicines, anti-mosquito spray and other items to take appropriate steps and prevent outbreak of the disease.

“We are receiving supplies from the routine funds from the health department but we need more supplies to be able to put brakes on outbreaks as monsoon rains are providing breeding spaces for larva, which ultimately become mosquitoes, the carriers of the virus,” a senior health official at one of the high-risk district told Dawn.

He said that the torrential rains were creating water pools, which required to be sprayed to eliminate larva. “To do this, we desperately need funds,” he added.

Sources said that government approved dengue implementation plan early in the current year. “Release of emergency fund is in process of approval at planning and development and finance departments and timely availability of funds will further improve once the emergency budget is released,” they added.

They said that Supreme Court had issued special directives to finance department to release the funds at the earliest. However, they said that release of funds was still awaited.

“Cases are mild. Only few patients are admitted to hospitals for observation for a few hours then discharged. No mortality has been recorded so far,” said sources.

They said that heavy rains and warm and humid hot weather were providing favourable conditions for breeding of dengue larva. They said that people also needed to keep drinking water covered to reduce breeding sites either by treating the standing water with insecticides, larvicides and removal of unnecessary standing water.

Sources said that health department required resources for preventive measures as the dengue season would continue till October. Currently, the department needs to strengthen larva surveillance and training of staff on case management to minimise the risk of outbreaks.

In 2017, dengue killed more than 70 people in the province, mostly in Peshawar. The government has been allocating special funds to Covid-19 and polio. It should release the emergency funds already approved for prevention of dengue outbreaks.

Health Secretary Amer Sultan Tareen told Dawn that they had sent request to the finance department to expedite the funds. He hoped that the funds would be released soon.

“The situation is under control but we are taking all measures as per the dengue implementation plan to prevent the outbreak. We are in touch with the district health authorities as well as other line departments in this regard. The high-risk would soon get additional funds as per their requirements,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2022

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