PESHAWAR: The residents of Tehkal area of Peshawar set up a protest camp and staged a demonstration against the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s failure to control the dengue virus, chanting ‘Go Imran Go’ and ‘Go Khattak Go’ slogans.
The protesters also chanted slogans against District Nazim Arbab Asim and complained that the dengue virus has become an epidemic as it has caused several deaths, while hundreds of others have been hospitalised in the province. They said that district and health administration officials visit the area for photo session. “District Nazim Arbab Asim cancelled his visit to the area fearing he may contract dengue fever,” commented a local resident.
The alleged negligence of the KP government to control dengue has apparently prompted Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to extend cooperation to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in handling the outbreak of the virus.
Shahbaz Sharif has directed his provincial health minister to approach the federal Health Department and cooperate with the KP government in overcoming the situation. “The residents of KP are our own blood and kin. The Punjab government will extend full cooperation to KP government for fighting dengue. We must all take care of each other,” Shahbaz Sharif said on his Twitter account on Friday.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led provincial government has not responded yet whether it will receive the assistance offered by the Punjab government. The KP government and particularly its health department is already under fire for its sheer negligence and failure in taking prior measures to avoid outbreak of dengue virus.
The KP government came out of hibernation when in the last week of July 2017 dengue virus hit Tehkal area of the provincial capital and hundreds of patients were hospitalised in Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) Peshawar. According to the hospital administration, five patients brought to them with dengue virus had already expired while dozens others were still admitted in different hospitals of the province.
Initially, Tehkal in Peshawar was the worst affected locality where hundreds of people were diagnosed with dengue virus but long silence of the provincial government helped the virus to spread to other parts of the city. Now besides Tehkal, patients from other areas such as Mohallah Gujran Charanda, Mohallah Daudzai, Tehkal Payan, Pishtakhara, Bala Kanday, Chato Pump and Warsak Road in Peshawar were also taken to KTH and were diagnosed with dengue virus.
Since July, KTH received 3,980 patients with symptoms similar to dengue fever and 614 of them were diagnosed with dengue virus. The KTH administration has spared two medical wards for the patients brought with dengue fever and is providing free drugs and investigations to them. The hospital administration said 120 patients diagnosed with dengue virus were still under treatment in the hospital.
Sources in the provincial Health Department told The News that the people couldn’t benefit from the Rs400 million funds provided by the international community for eradication of malaria and dengue virus in the province.
“The KP government and its Health Department is primarily responsible for this negligence that has become an outbreak now. The government didn’t utilise huge funds and failed to make purchase of larvicides and pesticides in the beginning of the season to handle malaria and dengue virus,” said a high-ranking government official on condition of anonymity.
He claimed the government was informed much before outbreak of the dengue virus about large scale irregularities in the malaria and dengue programme at provincial level. He further claimed that a high level committee headed by two deputy secretaries recommended fact-finding inquiry in the programme but nothing happened.
“The inquiry committee headed by two deputy secretaries found irregularities in the programme and recommended formation of a fact-finding committee. Dr Tahir Nadim and Dr Said Ali Khan were appointed members of the committee. But those responsible for the irregularities were influential enough that first they excluded Dr Tahir Nadim from the committee and then Dr Said Ali Khan, thus the issue was kept secret,” said the senior government official.
He said the proposed fact-finding committee would have exposed senior government officials had it was given a chance to work. He said the committee had recommended an inquiry of the programme right from 2008 and onward.
“It is very unfortunate as funds provided for saving precious human lives were not properly utilised. The programme was provided 225,000 nets by Unicef during the previous government which didn’t reach the deserving people and were sold in the market,” he said.
He said there are 3,000 nets still lying in the warehouse of the programme but not a single net was either provided to the victims of dengue virus nor drugs were given to them from funds of the programme. He said the programme is presently being run by an influential manager alone and almost all other positions are lying vacant.