KARACHI: Contaminated water supply continues to play havoc with people’s lives, killing two children in a Nazimabad locality and making hundreds of others ill across the city during the Eid days, it emerged on Friday.

Sources said 14-year-old Abbas and six-year-old Malika died on the first day of Eid after remaining ill with acute watery diarrhea for some days. They were residents of Union Council 49 (Jalalabad), part of Nazimabad.

They said there were speculations about a cholera outbreak in the locality with at least 25 children ill with acute watery diarrhea and vomiting. But the disease couldn’t be confirmed through a laboratory test.

“A team of the health department and water board immediately reached the spot. While we couldn’t get any lab report from the parents on disease diagnosis or collect samples for lab confirmation, what was evident to all officials was the highly contaminated water being supplied to the locality,” shared a health department official.

The water, he pointed out, was visibly contaminated and stinking, and had worms that could be seen from the naked eyes.

Supply of impure water continues to play havoc with people

“The cause of children’s death could not be confirmed but the specific conditions we saw there left no doubt in our minds that the continued consumption of contaminated water killed the children,” he said, adding that more than 20 children were ill in the same locality with acute watery diarrhea and vomiting.

According to the official, the team couldn’t meet the parents of the deceased children as they had left for their village.

“The team distributed chlorine tablets amongst the residents, most of them illiterate, and counselled the families on water use. The locality had countless illegal water connections.”

The health services director Karachi wasn’t available for comments.

Gastroenteritis, mainly with acute watery diarrhea, has gripped the city for almost a month. Most experts put the blame on the use of contaminated water for drinking purposes as a paucity of gas and its soaring prices has forced many people to use water without boiling.

At the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), Additional Medical Superintendent Dr Liaquat Ali Halo shared that the number of gastroenteritis patients was persistently high.

“Out of the 800-900 cases that are currently being reported at our main emergency unit during the Eid holidays, 50 per cent pertain to acute watery diarrhea,” he said, adding that the condition had a high fatality rate among malnourished children.

“Often, parents prepare milk for their children in contaminated water. Hence, their illness quickly takes a serious turn and they go into shock.”

Seconding his opinion, Dr Altaf Hussain Khatri, senior general physician representing the Pakistan Medical Association, said there was no let-up in gastroenteritis cases.

“I had my clinic today (Friday) and more than half of my patients were ill with gastroenteritis. None of them was using boiled water for drinking,” he said, adding that he ran his clinic in the old city area.

According to him, contaminated water is often the breeding ground for hosts of infections that can wreak havoc on the digestive system and lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

“Gastroenteritis is a broader term used for all illnesses causing inflammation of the digestive system, including cholera. This inflammation could be caused by viruses and bacteria, toxins, parasites, particular chemicals as well as certain drugs,” he explained.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2024

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