Jamaima Afridi

LANDIKOTAL: Dengue is the one of the most commonly known viral diseases caused by mosquitoes but still people don’t take it seriously.

In 2021, as many as 123 dengue cases have surfaced in Khyber tribal district and it is increasing day by day. The main reasons behind the spread of this disease in the district are lack of awareness and limited resources in the public sector hospitals. During the year 2020, zero cases were reported while in 2021, the number has increased to 123 which is alarming, but fortunately, no one has died of the disease, and also there is a possibility that many people having symptoms of the disease are not undergoing tests and required treatment and depending on traditional mode of treatment.

Basic facilities are available in hospitals of Khyber district, but for severe cases, patients are advised to visit Peshawar hospitals. Moreover, the test for dengue is free for local people in all major hospitals of Khyber including DHQ Hospital Landikotal, Jamrud and Bara hospitals.

Zohaib Khan, who lives in Landikotal, has decided to run an awareness campaign among the people as a social mobilizer and to save them from the dangerous disease. He started this campaign because his mother was also affected from dengue which motivated him for this noble cause.

Zohaib Khan visits different hujras (male guest houses) in his village where he educates the villagers about preventive measures to be taken against dengue and tells them about the symptoms of this disease.

“My mother was having severe body pain and high fever for the first few days. Her pain was getting worse gradually. Then, I took her to a government-run hospital where she was diagnosed with dengue NS1,” Zohaib Khan said.

“It was a hard time for me as well as for my whole family as I had heard that dengue can be a fatal, and I was worried for my mother because she was aged as well. I don’t want any other person to suffer from pain and I have decided to save people from the disease by creating awareness among them,” Zohaib added.

He was of the view that since the government was not conducting enough awareness campaigns regarding dengue in Landikotal, he has decided to take this responsibility of letting the people know about this disease

Dr Khalid Dawar, focal person for the dengue eradication in Khyber, said the focus areas for such campaigns are Jamrud and Bara tehsils, where many cases of dengue fever have been reported in 2021. However, he added that limited staff and low budget for dengue prevention (as most of the budget has been diverted to tackling COVID-19 now) has negatively affected the community mobilization efforts.

He said that since sufficient fumigation equipment was not available, the health teams had to carry it out in selected areas of Nogazi, Shalobar, Alamgoodar, Dogra, Bara, Shahkas, Wazirdand, and some other areas of Landikotal tehsil. He said fumigation is not an ideal solution for preventing dengue, rather the most important thing is the people’s knowledge about the breeding places for these mosquitoes, stagnant water around the houses and other surroundings being their ideal habitats and the people must remove it in the first place. He urged the need for special focus on educating tribal women about removing stagnant water from their houses.

Dr Khalid further said that since there problem of power outages in Khyber as a whole, most of people usually sleep in the open air thus resulting in a risk of being bitten by these dengue-carrying mosquitoes. “For this reason, we have distributed 543,973 mosquito nets in the start of 2021 but the people don’t use it,” he said.

In a tribal culture, it is not possible for volunteers like Zohaib to reach out to the women population just for the sake of making them aware about the risks associated with dengue fever. Keeping in view these circumstances, there is an urgent need of women volunteers to carry out this important task.

I talked to one of the affected women belonging to Khyber, and she agreed to talk on condition of not recording her voice or mentioning her name. She said that the pain was at its peak in the first few days but later on her husband took her to the nearby hospital where her treatment was continuing. After going through such severe pain, she decided to make the women aware about this disease at different functions and ceremonies.

Dr Khalid also said that despite limited staff, lady health workers (LHWs) visit homes in some areas like Nogazi, Shalobar, Alamgoodar, Dogra, Bara, and some other areas of Landikotal tehsil, to create awareness about dengue prevention. He added that he wanted to send male teams to girls’ schools, but couldn’t succeed as the provincial government has banned the male officials from visiting girls’ schools and colleges. “We tried to cover some schools through female LHWs,” he added.

Zohaib suggested that the government should not wait for the dengue outbreak in areas like Khyber, and rather it should make proactive strategies in order to contain its spread prior to winter season. He requested the educated youth to come forward and help the government in mobilizing communities against the dengue virus.

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