Stitch in time

The Epidemiology and Disease Control Department (EDCD) under the Ministry of Health and Population has sent two truckloads of medicine to 18 districts of the hilly region in order to check the possible outbreaks of viral influenza and diarrhoea during the winter. Antibiotics, paracetamol tablets and syrups have been sent to the medical stores of the hilly areas of the mid-eastern and far-western regions. As swift medical supply is not feasible given the geographical difficulty of these regions, the EDCD has dispatched the medicines in advance. It is a good policy which could save thousands of the poor suffering from these diseases in the hills. All know that many people die of viral influenza every year and the highest numbers of deaths are reported in the hills. According to the EDCD yearly report, in 2003, the highest number of cases (7,740) of viral influenza was reported in the central region and the highest number of deaths (22) in the mid-western region. In 2002, 19 deaths were reported out of the 1,875 cases of viral influenza and 26 deaths out of 692 cases in 2001.

Given the low level of public health awareness and lack of access to drugstores or local clinics, many living in the remote villages die of curable diseases. Diarrhoea, for instance, can be cured locally for which the state need not spend heavy sums of money. But unfortunately many poor people succumb to this water-born disease every year. The Japanese encephalitis recently killed more than 274 people in some parts of the country and many more are still undergoing treatment at local hospitals. But most of these deaths could have been prevented. The officials, shamefully, failed to utilise the amount of Rs. 104 million pledged by the World Bank and the Department for International Development in time to combat the disease. The health officials should draw a powerful lesson from their past mistakes and make sure that this time around the delivery is swift and distribution effective. The government should punish officials who cause such losses to the people just because of their negligence. Otherwise, such cases of costly negligence will continue to happen.