Hepatitis B Virus- Millions will die in Pakistan if not controlled
– Iqbal Tareen
With a HBV threat, Pakistan needs neither enemies nor a nuclear war. These epidemics can potentially wipe out the entire Pakistani population and population in the neighboring countries within a short time. There is no hiding from this weapon of mass destruction.
According to Irfan Aligi of Daily News- The federal government has launched the Prime Minister’s program for the eradication, prevention and treatment of hepatitis with an allocation of Rs 2.6 billion.
The Prime Minister’s program is meant to focus on hepatitis patients in jails, health workers and drug addicts who acquire the disease through sharing needles.
Sindh has the largest number of hepatitis patients in the country and according to the data provided by the federal government, there are 3.4 million people suffering from hepatitis in the province, but in fact the real number is much greater than the available data shows. Certain districts in Sindh, particularly Qambar, has the highest number of hepatitis patients while Larkana, Taluka Mehar of Dadu also show an alarming number of hepatitis cases, sources in the Sindh health department told Daily Times.
Here are some concerns:
1. Was there a scientific study done to determine the real size of the problem? Was there any mapping done to identify gaps between resources required and resources allocated to fight this problem?
2. Has an independent and efficient organization been put in place to exclusively tackle this issue? If yes, does it consist of same old corrupt bureaucrats or highly qualified professional people including subject matter experts, doctors, scientists, management experts, and financial managers who have track record of performing fiduciary duties?
3. What checks and balances have been put in place to make sure every single penny is spent on the actual mission rather than overheads?
4. Are grassroots organizations invited and included to share their recommendations and assistance to deal with this size of national calamity?
5. Has government interference been removed or minimized to enable this organization to work without any operational impediments?
6. Are there any goals and timelines set for this organization to measure its performance?
7. Has additional assistance been sought from international organizations or organizations of Pakistani Diaspora?
I request that we devote our next meeting of the Forum for Justice and Democracy in Pakistan to discuss HBV problem in Pakistan. Let us converge to understand the depth and size of the issue and be able to offer our support and assistance to the people of Pakistan. We should seriously consider appointing an HBV Outreach Committee to approach various International organizations and organizations of South Asian Diaspora especially Pakistani Diaspora living in North America and Europe to create awareness of this problem and seek help.
Let us also discuss the possibility of an ongoing coordination and cooperation between Diaspora and the organization responsible for fighting this epidemic on the ground.
I hope you will join us in this humble effort on Saturday, November 15, 2008 at Sadaf Restaurant, 1327 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852
November 5, 2008