Pneumonia is the number one killer of children in Pakistan. It has overtaken diarrhoea as the disease that results in the most deaths of children under the age of five years.
Last year, around 72,000 children died of the disease in the country, said Dr Ahson Rabbani, the CEO for ChildLife Foundation, at a press conference on Wednesday. He added that due to the use of ORS and awareness about early treatment, deaths from diarrhoea were going down.
The Pakistan Paediatric Association estimates that 92,000 children die from pneumonia every year. The respiratory ailment is one of the most important vaccine-preventable diseases, Dr Rabbani said, emphasising the role of vaccination.
The pneumococcal vaccine protects against pneumonia and is given to a baby at six weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks of age, and the fourth dose is given at 15 months of age, according to the EPI schedule.
“When a child comes to our centres the first question we ask is if their vaccinations are up to date,” said Dr Rabbani, adding that more than 500 children come to their Korangi centre daily just for vaccinations.
The ChildLife Foundation operates on a public-private partnership basis with the Sindh government and has taken charge of the paediatric emergency unit at Civil Hospital Karachi, the National Institute of Child Health (NICH), along with a few other centres.
The foundation’s seven emergency wards are also stocked with anti-rabies vaccines (ARV), said Dr Rabbani, and the medical superintendents keep them updated about supply.
It is every medical superintendent’s job to inform the health department of a shortage of the anti-rabies vaccine, stated Sindh Minister for Health and Population Welfare Dr Azra Pechuho. Strict action would be taken against those who don’t comply, she warned.
The health minister said the government had opened immunisation centres all over Karachi and it was a parent’s responsibility to bring their children to get vaccinated. The anti-typhoid campaign had been extended till December 7.
In every other country of the world, the expanded programme on immunisation (EPI) had been successful because of parents and their cooperation, Dr Pechuho said, urging parents to do their bit.
She admitted there was a shortage of staff in hospitals in other districts of Sindh but said that the department was working on it.
A new Sindh Medical and Dental Council
The Sindh health minister once again expressed her dissatisfaction with the decision to dissolve the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC). She said they were thinking of launching Sindh’s own Medical and Dental Council to reduce the troubles of the doctors and medical students.
Protests against the federal government’s decision to replace the PMDC with the Pakistan Medical Commission are still going on at different hospitals and medical universities across the country.