Hunza News

Health first: Govt snubs media reports on fatal outbreak

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GIGLIT:Panic gripped Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) after regional media reported that at least six children died within 24 hours in parts of Ghizer valley due to some infectious diseases. The government, however, maintains that there is no such thing and the media has its facts wrong.

HunzaNews March 23rd, 2014.

On March 13, the report was carried by regional Urdu dailies, including Baad-e-Shimal, Salam, Baang-e-Sahar and others, on their front page.

The headline in Baad-e-Shimal read ‘Six children died of various diseases within 24 hours in the upper parts of Ghizer Valley’. The text of the story quoted a former district council member of Ghizer, Khan Akbar Khan, claiming the cause was negligence of the government’s health department and the Primary Healthcare Initiative.

Khan further said when he met the health secretary, he informed the latter about the issue but the secretary did not send any officials from the healthcare initiative and this is what resulted in the deaths.

A similar story was carried by Salam and was credited to Independent News Pakistan, a news service.

In Salam’s copy, however, no source was quoted. It said that there was an outbreak of an infectious disease in Tairoo, Gulakhmuli and Phundar areas and this was causing the deaths.

The copy read that affluent families had taken their children to hospitals in Gilgit for treatment. Gilgit is about 100 kilometres
from Ghizer.

As the media reports spread, G-B’s Chief Secretary Younus Dagha sought a report from the relevant authorities. A medical team was sent to the valley and a report was submitted to the government.

Two days later, a press release was issued from the office of Ghizer’s district health officer (DHO) claiming that the media stories were baseless. The DHO, Dr Muhammad Saleem, also visited the area.

He said the reports were not based on facts. “Even though five children and an adult died, the deaths did not occur within 24 hours,” he said. “These were not the result of an outbreak of some disease.” He added that the deaths occurred in January and the months that followed.

Saleem told The Express Tribune on Monday that the deaths occurred in separate villages of the valley. According to him, of those who died, two were premature infants born in Gowari village.

One was a child in Tairo; Shamran died of influenza which is a normal occurrence during the winter season. He said that in Shashi, an 80-year-old man suffered from a stroke and died. He added that everything he had mentioned was authentic data that had been shared with the chief secretary and media.

On orders from Dagha, Health Secretary Akhtar Rizvi and Ghizer’s Deputy Commissioner Sibtain Ahmed visited the affected villages on Sunday.

“There is heavy snowfall in the valley and life for the residents is quite difficult,” said Rizvi. He denied that five people had died of an endemic. He added a free health camp would be arranged for the locals and an ambulance was also called in for them.

Apart from the tough climate conditions, the stock of medicines and facilities for primary healthcare were found to be satisfactory as the Aga Khan Health Services and healthcare initiative continue to extend their services and help.


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