7 children die of measles at villages near Keenjhar Lake

KARACHI: A recent outbreak of curable measles at villages near Keenjhar Lake, Thatta district has claimed lives of seven children while 185 others have been hospitalized in different hospitals of Thatta, Hyderabad and Jinnah Hospital Karachi. The outbreak is also being linked to the use of contaminated water of Keenjhar Lake.

The death of seven children has been reported in major Sonehri village, located close to the Keenjhar Lake, Thatta district. The village has 550 families, mostly depending on fishing and cultivation for their livelihoods.

Villagers say 50 percent population has access to get water of filter plant installed by a non-governmental organization while others use water receiving from the government’s water supply line, which is said to be smelly and contaminated.

The villagers accuse the government authorities of ignoring their cry and now they are paying its price in the shape of this irreparable loss.

After the hue and cry by the community activists against releasing the industrial chemicals in to major Keenjhar Lake through different channels have caused spread of measles, killing seven children and inflicting around 185 other children in Sonehri Village and its neighbourhoods.

But now the fishermen say neither they have job to feed their children properly nor are health facilities in the area to get treatment in emergency to save our children.

The different approach of doctors can be gauged from the fact that some of the medical practitioners are deputed at major government hospitals and running private clinics in the scattered villages but they are reluctant to provide help to ailing children.

“When we took our child Gulsher, a three-year boy to nearby private clinic in Sonda Village at around 2 am, doctor could not respond to come out and at least suggest us what to do. We stayed outside the clinic for two hours, crying for help to see doctor but returned home hopelessly. Again we hired a vehicle from the village to pay Rs8000 to take the child to Makli Hospital. However, the child expired at hospital before reaching any medical aid,” Ali Mohammed, the father of victim child narrates the tale of apathy. He has lost his two children, a boy and girl in the same disease one after the other.

A four-member team of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) after visiting the affected area quoted the parents, saying despite getting their children vaccinated they are facing horrible situation. According to the villagers, so far, they have buried seven dead children, all were the victims of the measles. It is for the first time the people are experiencing disastrous situation and the government officials are reluctant to declare the emergency to avoid further loss.

They said doctors are still unable to share the cause of this kind of outbreak that is said to be similar to the one which killed a large number of children in Shikarpur district after the flood 2010 polluted the sources of water there. It was the contaminated water there which caused the deaths of several children.

The team collected information of about 185 children affected by the diseases (Measles and Pneumonia), where seven children reportedly have died, including Haider age 11 years, Mairaj age 4 years, Basit age 8 years, Simra age 2 years, Gulsher age 3 years, Bisma age 2 years and Sahil age 2 years.

Villagers say that the failure of health services also is contributing to this problem. No health facilities are functional properly to benefit the people.

“There is acute poverty, the people are facing due to decline in fish catch in the lake,” said Rabail Aziz, who was leading the PFF team to see the situation and design a report.

The parents are facing difficulties to take their children to major hospitals in Thatta and other cities for treatment because of poverty. Many times they starve hunger; they have empty pockets; they even cannot afford to visit private clinics, said Aziz. There is dispensary in village Sonehri, which was found closed for the last eight years. After this phenomenon the dispensary has been made functional for the sub immunization activity for the measles affected children.

Moreover, the dispensary only provides medicines for fever, cough and other ailments as first aid. If the case of Measles and Pneumonia they refer to Makli Hospital, Thatta Civil Hospital, Jinnah Hospital Karachi and other private clinics for getting better treatment.

Overall, 185 cases of measles were identified with the age ranging from (73 were infants); 65 children of 5 years, and 47 between 5 to 12 years of Village Sonehri.

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