CM’s program fails to control Hepatitis disease

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SINDH: The Sindh Chief Minister’s Program for Prevention & Control of Hepatitis in Sindh has failed to provide required kits and treatment medicines to its Centers across Sindh including Larkana due to which hundreds of poor patients are suffering the trouble.

In village Kamal Khan Chandio, located near Ratodero, journalists detected four members of a poor peasant’s family of Athar Hussain Chandio who were suffering from Hepatitis C as the village has salty subsoil water and the residents are forced to drink it since their birth.

The affected members include his two sons, his mother and he himself. His father, two uncles and grandfather died of this dreaded viral disease which has affected, according to experts, 40% of the population across the province but provincial government did not take any pain to remove the fundamental cause of the disease which is spreading fast among the villagers.

The villagers complained that this village has been constantly neglected by the rulers as they have even been denied safe drinking water facilities. To verify their claim, journalists went to a hand pump water of which was found highly contaminated.

Poverty-ridden Chungal Khan Chandio, another patient suffering from Hepatitis C, told newsmen that his wife had also left him alone to suffer after being infected with the deadly disease. He is now passing his days alone lying on a cot under open sky in a makeshift house made of bushes, wooden pillars and he also suffered a paralyses attack recently. Villagers told newsmen that they have sold their golden ornaments and even obtained money on interest from moneylenders to get treatment but all in vain.

Dr. Abdul Khalique Shaikh, Incharge of the program, Chandka Medical College Hospital (CMCH), told newsmen that basic PCR diagnostic test of Hepatitis B, C & D has been stopped because of unavailability of kits since past three months adding reports of blood samples obtained in May have not yet been received which shows how this program is functioning. He said people are forced to get the test from private labs which cost them very high. He said without this vital test no treatment could be provided to any affected patient. He said even Alisa machine is dysfunctional here since past six months what to speak of other things. Asked why entire healthcare system has collapsed he replied he knew nothing.

Dr. Zulfiqar Dharejo, Provincial Program Manager, Hepatitis Control Program said that this program was facing core issue of funds availability. He said Rs 300 million were released last year whereas in 2008-09, when this program was launched. Rs 900 to 1000 million were provided annually for procurement of required medicines and other material including kits for diagnosing and treatment of Hepatitis patients.

According to a WHO report, 325 million people around the globe are infected with this viral disease out of them 15 million are affected with hepatitis B & C in Pakistan in 2019. The report further added that 1.4 millions deaths occur internationally due to this disease and it is the second major killer infectious disease after tuberculosis. Approximately 5 and 10 million people are suffering from hepatitis B and C respectively in the country, the report said. The report further added that Hepatitis B and C are transmitted primarily through blood and are key causes of liver cirrhosis and cancer. The report said that, 23,720 people died of hepatitis-related causes in Pakistan in 2016, which compares to a bus full of 64 people every day.