Punjab govt pinches funds as first Dengue victim surfaces


The Punjab government on Wednesday released only Rs 20 million out of the allocated Rs 300 million for coping with the dengue epidemic leaving the concerned authorities high and dry in the face of a potential dengue epidemic during monsoon, as the first dengue case has been confirmed in the provincial metropolis.
The Planning and Development (P&D) Department announced that the amount has been released for a quarter (three months), while the rest will be released later in the ongoing fiscal year. However, top officials in the P&D department have ignored the disease pattern; the dengue outbreak assumes great proportions during monsoon, with the incidence at its peak in August last year as well.
At the start of the ongoing fiscal year, the same officials allocated Rs 300 million for Prevention and Control Program of Epidemics in Punjab, but released only a minor chunk at a time when finances are needed the most and will be ineffective after the three months pass. A senior official, on the condition of anonymity, said the initial dengue control program was designed for five districts: Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Multan. However the chief minister brought seven more districts in the ambit including Okara, Pakpattan, Sheikhupura, Sahiwal, Nankana Sahib and Kasur. Hundreds of employees were recruited across Punjab to fight the dengue epidemic under the same program. “Last year, the PC-1 was made for only five districts, but the spending has increased a lot after including more districts as per orders of the CM,” the official said, adding that salaries bill of the dengue staff amounts to around Rs 25 million, terming the released Rs 20 million “peanuts”. He further said more money is needed for insecticides and logistics, as the officers monitoring the dengue control program have to go in the field and need petrol and cars, all of which translate into more money.
“All the efforts of the government and the CM will go down the drain if the money is not released at the right time because after three months that money will have no effect,” the official added.
According to reports, 33-year-old Kathy, a Chinese citizen from Beijing, who reached Lahore from Bangladesh has been tested positive with dengue virus and is a confirmed patient with NS1 positive test. She is currently admitted in a private hospital.
CM’s advisor on health Khwaja Salmaan Rafique dispelled the reports that Kathy got infected in Lahore. He said she travelled from Bangladesh to Karachi, from where it is probable that she got the virus. This has further increased the threat for the residents of the provincial capital as an increasing number of people are travelling between the two cities owing to vacations. To a question on the adequacy of funds, Rafique said the government health authorities have already procured the insecticide and are “self-sufficient”. He said the Lady Health Workers (LHWs) and other staff will work to cope with dengue. “We have an entire team of experts who will assess the latest situation of the spray conducted as per the population,” he further added.