Pakistan – Children in city’s 2nd largest slum battling with diarrhoea
The reasons for this outbreak include a lack of proper sanitation system, a huge open drain running in the centre of the colony and absence of clean potable water.
The health experts working in the colony have declared this an emergency situation and said if the government does not take any immediate safety measures, the condition could worsen. They also warned that the disease might spread in other parts of the city.
“Since last week, diarrhoea has become epidemic in the colony and children are dying,” said Dr Aisha Siddique, a young lady doctor at Mother and Child Heath Centre, which is run by a non profit and non government organisation Concern for Children Trust (CFC). She said that she receives 60 patients everyday, but since the spread of diarrhoea, the majority of the patients visiting the centre are children.
“A child in almost every home is suffering from diarrhoea in this colony, which has a population of about 0.7 million,” said Dr Siddique. She said that there are about 72 clinics working in different areas of the colony and almost every clinic is receiving large numbers of children with viral diarrhoea.
Located in the backwaters of Karachi Port, just off the edges of the Arabian Sea, Machhar Colony is the second largest slum settlement after Orangi Pilot Project and is home to approximately 0.7 million people of different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities including Biharis, Burmese, Bangladeshis, and Afghans. As the colony is illegal on government records, therefore it is suffering from a lack of basic facilities such as clean drinking water and proper sanitation.
“There is no water supply system in the colony, therefore the people get water from other localities through a network of plastic pipes, and you can see these pipes are spread amongst the garbage on the surface of the main sewerage drain passing from the middle of the colony, Dr Siddique explained. “Sometimes when the garbage catches fire, these pipes are burnt resulting in sewerage water getting mixed with drinking water causing the spread of diseases” She said that the practice is common in the colony, but the reasons for the diarrhoeal disease as well as its spread need to be ascertained through a study.
Official data from different international organisations reveals that in Pakistan, 38.5 million people lack accesses to safe drinking water, and 50.7 million lack access to improved sanitation, due to which 25 percent of the total hospital beds in Pakistan are occupied by the people suffering from waterborne diseases.
The study further reveals that diarrhoea is the leading cause of mortality and second leading cause of morbidity among children under five years of age.
“Due to poverty, there is almost one patient of tuberculosis in every house in the colony, besides this typhoid fever, viral fever and other diseases are also common, but this recent diarrhoeal epidemic could be very fatal if certain measures are not taken,” said Dr Siddique.