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Should we kill ourselves, ask Dera Bugti families struck by Cholera

Updated 15 May, 2022
<p>A girl admitted to the basic health unit in Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh on May 15, 2022. Imam Buksh Khan/Aaj News</p>

A girl admitted to the basic health unit in Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh on May 15, 2022. Imam Buksh Khan/Aaj News

<p>Locals voluntarily clean the water storage space in Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh on May 14, 2022. Imam Buksh Khan/Aaj News</p>

Locals voluntarily clean the water storage space in Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh on May 14, 2022. Imam Buksh Khan/Aaj News

<p>A patient being brought at the basic health unit in Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh on May 15, 2022. Imam Buksh Khan/Aaj News</p>

A patient being brought at the basic health unit in Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh on May 15, 2022. Imam Buksh Khan/Aaj News

Dera Bugti: More than 750 cholera patients in the basic health unit, comprised of two rooms, of Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh and the lack of a clean drinking facility show the impact of acute diarrheal illness in the gas-rich city, prompting Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to take notice of the epidemic.

Pir Koh is located at a distance of 20.8kms from Dera Bugti, which has a population of 312,603 according to the Census 2017 results. The area has a comparatively low temperature as compared to other cities however it has no major hospitals to treat patients with diseases. A local pond, located at 10 to 15kms of the distance between Dera Bugti and Wangu, is the only source of water for the residents. But, it is not clean. Because of the lack of rain, the natural ponds are dried up.

A picture of water storage space in Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh that was taken on May 13, 2022. Imam Buksh Khan/AajNews
A picture of water storage space in Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh that was taken on May 13, 2022. Imam Buksh Khan/AajNews

So far, 3,200 cholera cases have been reported in Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh, the Balochistan’s health department said. On Saturday People blocked the road leading to the OGDCL gas field in the city in protest against the government’s apparent apathy over the state of health in the city. “Give water to Pir Koh,” was the slogan during their demonstration.

PM Shehbaz has directed the Centre and provincial government to take steps on an emergency basis to stem the cholera outbreak, Radio Pakistan reported. He also issued directives to deliver food items, clean drinking water, and medicines to the affected persons in Pir Koh.

Local health departments, World Health Organisation and the Frontier Corps teams are busy providing water and health facilities to the people for the last three days after Balochistan CM Abdul Quddus Bizenjo took notice of the situation. But still, the area of almost 40,000 people is not yet covered.

“We are dying, we are in difficulty, we are in pain, our women and children are worried… and you should be ashamed of yourself to conduct a meeting in Dera Bugti. No, it will be best if you hold a meeting in Islamabad,” Mufti Ahmed Din said while protesting against the prevalence of the outbreak.

Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh residents protest against the health situation and water scarcity in the gas-rich area. Imam Buksh Khan/Aaj News
Dera Bugti’s Pir Koh residents protest against the health situation and water scarcity in the gas-rich area. Imam Buksh Khan/Aaj News

Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with Vibrio cholerae bacteria, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. People can get sick when they swallow food or water contaminated with cholera bacteria. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe and life-threatening.

“As a mufti, I did not want to come here, but God willing women came to me with fatwas that ‘is suicide allowed to us’, ‘can we commit suicide’,” he said and wondered why the government was forcing them. He was of the view that Islamic values were stopping them or else “the suicide rate could have been higher than the death count”.

The first cholera case was reported on April 17 in Pir Koh, according to District Health Office Muhammad Azam Bugti, adding that so far six people died because of the disease. However, residents tell a different story. They told Aaj News that the death has climbed to 22, with the death of a minor on Sunday. They accused the DHO of hiding the OPD register, which contained the death and cases count, from the BHU and showing wrong statistics to the higher authorities.

20 people have died – including children due to the cholera epidemic spiralling out of control in Pir Koh, Dera Bugti, Senator Sarfraz Bugti tweeted on Sunday. He urged the Balochistan CM to urgently take stock of the situation and immediately lend assistance to the afflicted.

Mufti Din described the government promises as “lollipops,” urging them to become the public voice. “You keep an eye on our movement, why don’t you watch out for our thirst,” he said and called upon the authorities to visit the city’s hospital.

Balochistan Chief Minister Biznjo on Friday directed the departments concerned to release Rs300 million for water schemes in Dera Bugti. The city has no water filtration plant and the provincial government in the past planned to start a water boring project. But, no pipeline was installed because of apparent corruption.

At least 50 cholera patients were shifted to hospitals outside Pir Koh on Saturday, DHO Azam said and claimed that the number of patients was decreasing.

“We are at BHU and we are facing difficulty. Three patients are on one bed. We are trying to talk to the administration but they say the health secretary has ordered them not to share anything with them,” Noor Bugti, a social worker, said.

A boy is being treated in the entrance area of the basic health unit because of a lack of space in the health facility. Imam Buksh Khan/Aaj News
A boy is being treated in the entrance area of the basic health unit because of a lack of space in the health facility. Imam Buksh Khan/Aaj News

He alleged that the Pir Koh’s death count and their health condition are being concealed. “We are being killed. So we request the authorities to take immediate notice of this,” Noor said and claimed some people were misleading people on the prevailing situation.

Standing against the backdrop of patients on beds in the hospital lobby, social activist Shahid Hussain complained about the shortage of beds as people are forced to sit on the ground. He added that the youth was voluntarily helping the hospital staff because of the medical staff shortage.

“Day by day, [cholera] patients are increasing. Two people died today and more than 300 cases were registered,” he said and accused Health Secretary Saleh Nasir of hiding OPD data.

“Situation is out of control. Towns of towns are coming here [BHU]. No one is here to see their plight. I request Balochistan to CM and the PM to immediately announce an emergency here to control the epidemic.”