By Sajjad Hussain
Islamabad, Sep 22 (PTI) Pakistani Health authorities have sought the government’s permission to procure around 7.1 million mosquito nets from India due to a surge in the vector borne diseases in the wake of the devastating floods in several parts of the country, a media report said on Thursday.
The development came after a deadly malaria onslaught wreaked relentless havoc in flood-affected regions of the country, where hundreds of cases of deadly ‘Plasmodium falciparum’ species of the disease are being reported on a daily basis, The News International reported.
“The National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS, R&C) has sought the permission of the Ministry of Commerce to procure around 7.1 million mosquito nets from India,” an official of the NHS, R&C was quoted as saying in the report.
“Actually, the Global Fund, which is the major donor for the National Malaria Control Programme, has offered to provide funds for the procurement of mosquito nets from India on an urgent basis,” the report further added.
The devastating floods in several parts of Pakistan have so far claimed the lives of over 1,500 people and caused a surge in various types of water borne and vector borne diseases.
Malaria testing kits, anti-malarial drugs and mosquito nets are desperately needed in the flood-affected districts of Sindh and Balochistan, where hundreds of cases of Plasmodium Falciparum, the deadliest type of malaria, is being reported among men, women and children, according to public and private health experts.
The experts have urged the authorities to immediately arrange anti-malaria drugs and mosquito nets to prevent the loss of life in the flood-affected areas of the country.
The NHS official asserted that they had requested the Global Fund for arrangement of mosquito nets for the 26 most-affected districts of Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan, where Plasmodium Falciparum cases were humongous and in response the Global Fund offered to procure these nets from India if the government of Pakistan allows its procurement from its arch-rival neighbouring state.
“We have written a letter to the Ministry of Commerce to grant the permission for procurement of mosquito nets from India. If allowed, the Global Fund has assured us of arranging the required number of mosquito nets within a few days,” NHS official added.
Urging the government to relax ‘malaria treatment guidelines’ temporarily, infectious diseases experts at the Aga Khan University (AKU) warned of large number of mortality in the flood-affected districts of Sindh and other provinces, as neither malaria testing kits, anti-malarial drugs nor mosquito nets were available for the flood victims.
“Malaria is fast emerging as a significant public health challenge in flood-affected areas. The problem is hugely compounded by the lack of availability of malaria testing kits and anti-malarial drugs. The national guidelines encourage confirmatory tests before treatment of malaria, whenever possible. Of course, if there are no testing kits available, then how can one do the confirmatory test?” questioned Prof. Dr Asad Ali, a leading paediatric infectious diseases expert associated with the AKU.
Talking to The News, Dr Ali said that daily thousands of cases of Malaria were being reported from the flood-affected areas and added that unfortunately, due to the unavailability of testing kits, no confirmatory tests were being carried out and no treatment was being given to the patients.
He maintained that there was an urgent need for widespread provision of malaria diagnostic kits and anti-malarial drugs in the flood-affected areas.
On the other hand, the National Malaria Control Programme Officials said over 3,500 cases of malaria were being reported daily from Sindh’s flood-affected districts alone and added that of these cases, around 22.4 per cent were of Plasmodium Falciparum.
“So far, over 80,000 cases have been reported from the flood-hit areas of Sindh till September 20. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, as most of the people infected with the disease were not being diagnosed,” the official said.
The official elaborated that of the 80 flood-affected districts, malaria had wreaked havoc in 26 districts of Pakistan and added that they were trying to arrange around 7.1 million mosquito nets on an urgent basis to save people, especially women and children, from the deadly mosquitoes.
Pakistan downgraded its trade relations with India in August 2019 after India's decision to revoke Article 370 that granted a special status to Jammu and Kashmir. PTI SH RUP RUP