State Response to Pneumonia Surge is Irresponsible

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Every year 2.5 million people die from pneumonia, and almost one third are children. Pakistan is currently facing an alarming surge in pneumonia cases with 622 cases over just 24 hours in Punjab including children. In January 50 percent of samples from ailing children tested positive for viral pneumonia, with more than 18,000 registered patients in eastern Punjab.

The high numbers, according to a news report in Dawn, “presents damning evidence of incompetence on the part of the Punjab caretaker government and health authorities, which preferred cosmetic measures — extended school vacations, shorter classes and face masks — to comprehensive, inoculation-driven initiatives. Even more disturbing is the fact that pneumonia rages on despite the caretaker set-up’s projects for enhancement of emergency and other measures in Lahore’s government teaching institutes, which are worth Rs90bn. The Young Doctors Association, Punjab, too, has drawn attention to the pneumonia fatalities and warned of unavailability of medicines for the poor.”

According to UNICEF South Asia is home to the highest number of pneumonia cases among children. The Pakistani state needs to act before the country loses the next generation. The public health authorities need “to hit the ground running with large-scale immunisation campaigns for children and the elderly, distribute cost-free masks, medicines and sanitisers, ensure adequate nutrition and potable water, and advocate hygiene and ventilation in low-income areas. Moreover, awareness about the disease and precautions against its spread in schools and among those with comorbidities is paramount. In addition, the phenomenon of ‘walking pneumonia’ should be studied, so that early detection and treatment can prove successful in averting potentially fatal outcomes. We cannot afford higher statistics.”

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Author: Ali Chughtai