Health dept issues high alert across Sindh - Gastroenteritis major cause of child mortality
Health dept issues high alert across Sindh – Gastroenteritis major cause of child mortality
KARACHI: With increasing levels of mercury in Sindh, the monsoon threat of gastroenteritis (stomach-flu) is looming large over the province.
Sindh Public Health Department, a subsidiary of the provincial health department, has issued a high alert throughout the state-run hospitals to make special preparations for the treatment of gastroenteritis, especially for children.
Through a notification, the department has directed the administration of all public sector hospitals, district and taluka hospitals, Rural Health Centres (RHCs), Basic Health Units (BHUs) and even dispensaries to get ready for gastroenteritis patients.
“Besides imposing emergency and issuing high alert, we have also directed district administrations to run public message in local media, so that people may get aware about preventive measures,” said Director Sindh Public Health Department Dr Masood Solangi.
He further said that hospitals are asked to keep enough stocks of medicines to treat the patients, especially since an epidemic could be directly proportional to the increasing intensity of heat.
According to the healthcare experts, gastroenteritis is an infection caused by consumption of contaminated water and unhygienic food and the symptoms are vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea with abdominal cramps.
As per UNICEF, Pakistan is on the same level as India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia in terms of half of the total childhood deaths in the world due to diarrhoea.
“Gastroenteritis is an infection caused by the consumption of unhygienic food and contaminated water and this disease is fatal for minor children and infants,” said Director National Institute of Child Health (NICH) Prof Syed Jamal Raza.
He said that minor children are at a greater risk not just because of contaminated water, but also consumption of unhygienic food from pushcart vendors.
“The infants who are given bottle milk are also at a higher risk if the bottle is not sterilised, so they suffer a lot and a majority of the infants we receive at NICH are suffering from gastroenteritis,” said Prof Dr Raza.
Advising mothers to breastfeed, Dr Raza asked to avoid giving milk via bottles to infants.
He also recommended parents not to let children eat unhygienic food from pushcart vendors.
Bilquis Rehman, manager- Information and Communication Resource and Advocacy Programmes at HANDS, an NGO working on water sanitation and hygiene, said that government must ensure safe drinking water supply to reduce the burden on heath sector.
“We need to spread awareness among parents through public service messages about the disease and media can play an important role in this regard,” she said.
Abdul Hafeez, Manager Policy and Advocacy WaterAid Pakistan while discussing the causes behind water contamination said, “Pouring of domestic and industrial waste into freshwater reserves is a major cause of contamination in Pakistan.”
Quoting a report he said that in western countries water supply is being operated on 24/7 basis in which contamination chances are less, but in Pakistan the water is supplied on hourly basis that increases the chances of contamination.
“In most cites, water supply lines are outdated. When the pipelines are filled with water, contamination chances are less, but in our hourly system, the risk of contamination multiplies. In Karachi, out of 24 hours, on average the lines are used merely four hours a day, which is lowest across all major cities of the country,” he said.
Sporadic water supply is common in urban areas. For Pakistani cities, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimated that Karachi has the lowest water supply hours.
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