Pakistan struggles to contain measles as cases keep emerging 

In the past 20 days, Pakistan has recorded the deaths of several children since measles cases started emerging in the country’s Kamiana Thatta area of Pattoki city in Punjab, triggering widespread panic and demanding immediate action from the government.

Punjab remains one of the worst-affected provinces with 34,000 cases recorded since January this year.

The trend could be seen in other Pakistani cities including those in Sindh and KP.

The possible cause of the rise in the disease in these areas is the low vaccination rate during COVID-19 pandemic.

Karachi in Sindh itself witnessed a surge in measles earlier this year with the experts and media attributing it to the failure of the government-run immunisation programme and persistent neglect of parents towards their children’s basic health needs. 

Information from government hospitals indicated that measles had been a big healthcare challenge since last year. 

As per Dawn News Editorial, there have been several issues that have triggered the worldwide spike in the disease and ‘misinformation and the global anti-vax movement added fuel to the fire’.

The result of the movement is also creating a backlog of children around the world who are at high risk.

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads easily when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes, says WHO. It can cause severe disease, complications, and even death. Measles can affect anyone but is most common in children.

According to WHO guidelines, one dose of the measles-rubella vaccine should be administered to all children aged 6 months to 5 years living in internally displaced person (IDP) camps, along roadsides, in host communities, or in any temporary shelters, irrespective of their previous vaccination history.

Pakistan is among the top 10 countries in the world with a large pool of un/under-vaccinated children and is home to more than 600 000 zero-dose children.

The root cause of measles returning with such ferocious intensity also lies in the underlying problem of malnutrition in Pakistan.

The only way the economically battered country can deal with the crisis is with the active participation of the government which must intensify vaccination campaigns.

 “It is encouraging that during the upcoming anti-polio campaign, the government plans to simultaneously check for measles cases and administer measles shots to children in some areas. This must be extended to all cities,” the Dawn News article titled ‘Measles resurgence’ said.

“Alongside, public health education campaigns are crucial to raise awareness about the importance of the jab and early intervention. Improving access to healthcare services in underserved areas and addressing the nutritional needs of children is equally vital,” the article said.

The leading Pakistani daily further urged healthcare professionals to prevent negligence in dealing with the disease and asked the government to act swiftly to avoid further escalation of the situation that may lead to loss of lives.

Medical experts in Pakistan said the government needs to enhance its healthcare budget to six per cent of its GDP to provide quality healthcare to all.

This is more than the Rs 37 billion reportedly allocated for the health sector in the current fiscal year. 

The helpless situation of Pakistan is reflected in the Editorial of The New International which said: “Arguably the most frightening thing that Karachi’s measles outbreak shows is that our healthcare system, as it is, cannot even protect all children in the most developed areas of the country where access to healthcare facilities and services are more accessible than in the rural areas.”

The Editorial further said: “Vaccine workers are likely responsible for saving the lives of more children than any other group in the country. They ought to receive compensation and benefits that reflect the importance of their role. It is also essential to recognize that healthcare needs and challenges differ from region to region given the diversity of Pakistan.”


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