Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) promised in its 2013 manifesto to launch behavioural change media campaign to prevent people from contracting infectious diseases.
PPP has been in power in Sindh for the past eight years. From 2008 to 2016, there was no local government in place for the simple reason that local body elections were not held until the Supreme Court of Pakistan prevailed upon the provincial governments to perform this important constitutional obligation. All these years, Sindh was completely neglected in every regard. If law and order and terrorism had made people insecure, the lack of civic amenities such as sanitation had made them vulnerable to health issues. Karachi, the cosmopolitan city of Sindh and supposedly the hub of Pakistan’s economic activities, from where billions of rupees in taxes are collected every year has been turned into a garbage bin. Piles of rubbish line even posh areas. High rise buildings and narrow broken roads stinking with sewage water or garbage is just a single paradox out of many that make the city a case of misplaced priorities. Every day, the people of Karachi wake up to filthy roads where business worth billions is conducted every single day. Yet neither the government nor the owners of the businesses are interested in taking responsibility of the situation.
Last year in December, over 1500 people in Karachi’s Malir area fell victim to what the doctor called a mysterious disease they had no knowledge of. The patients complained of high-grade fever and loss of appetite along with severe pains in the body.
Many diseases that afflict the residents of Karachi are caused by filth and dirt. The government loses moral authority to educate its citizens on protecting themselves against infectious diseases when it is not providing them with a safe and clean environment. Perhaps that has been the reason why the Sindh government shied away from starting a robust media campaign to raise awareness regarding health issues, as was told to Truth Tracker by PPP MPA from Sindh, Sharmila Farooqi in a telephonic interview.
While agreeing that the Sindh government has initiated no such media awareness campaign, Farooqi conceded that the situation of sanitation in Karachi particularly and in Sindh generally was questionable. She said that it was unfortunate that a large part of Karachi’s population lived in squalid conditions that gave rise to infectious diseases. “The Sindh government has been caught unprepared several times when they have been unable to tackle a disease that suddenly surfaces and attacks the environs. I believe our government should start a massive cleanliness campaign coupled with creating awareness in people on how to protect themselves against viral diseases,” Farooqi said.
Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi head, Hafiz Naeem Ur Rehman, told Truth Tracker that once upon a time, Karachi too was a clean city. He said that when the Mayorship of Karachi was in the hands of Jamaat-e-Islami from 2001-05, the city was both clean and green. “With the arrival of MQM at the helm of the affair,” Rehman said, “Karachi was de-shaped using china cutting.” According to him: “Viral diseases are a common occurrence in Karachi.”
“Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease which has now spread all across Karachi. At the outbreak of this disease, the government was required to eradicate mosquitoes by fumigation and proper garbage disposal. However, the Karachi government has failed to do both. The result is that scores of people are contracting the diseases every day.
Chikungunya is a painful condition that brings fever and pains in joints,” Rehman said.
Rehman added that the PPP government was both corrupt and incompetent.
“After the local government elections, it is now the responsibility of the MQM to keep the city clean. It is wrong to say that the local government is deprived of funds. The Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) has an annual budget of 23 billion; similarly, MQM is in power in four districts of Karachi, and each district has a total budget of almost Rs 40 million. There are plenty of funds, but there is no intention or political will to put the money where their mouth is,” Rehman said.
Dr Umair Ahmed from Karachi told Truth Tracker that most of the cases of viral diseases were reported from localities known for poor sanitation conditions. He said that it was the responsibility of the KMC to eradicate mosquitos, improve sanitation conditions of the city and to prevent people from contracting viral and infectious diseases. He added that the government had to take the ownership of the city before it morphs into a hub for diseases.
“Prevention is better than cure. A media campaign that educates them about the disease along with prevention measures is significant,” Umair said.
Lala Hassan, a veteran analyst, in his conversation with Truth Tracker, said that the onus of responsibility also lied on the shoulders of the general public who lacked rudimentary civic sense. He said that the Chinese company now hired for cleaning Karachi had put garbage bins in different parts of Karachi. “But, unfortunately, people are most often found throwing trash outside the bin,” Hassan said. Government has to implement laws to make the general public responsible towards civic amenities.
The PPP government has broken to fulfil its promise of spreading awareness about infectious diseases through a media campaign.