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EDITORIAL: Outbreak of cholera in Lahore seems to look more and more like an epidemic. According to the provincial Communicable Disease Control (CDC) department, the city’s public sector hospitals have reported some 2,000 cases of acute diarrhoea during April and the current month.

Children being extra susceptible to catching infections, Children’s Hospital says it gets as many as 500 patients with acute diarrhoea on a daily basis. Since many of those infected tend to have mild or no symptom, the actual incidence of the disease may be much higher.

Considering that cholera is caused by contaminated water and food, it is a shame that this should be happening in Lahore where a previous government spent bulk of the provincial development budget. Much if it, however, went into fancy projects and sprucing up of the city’s image.

There has been little attention to the major factors contributing to various life threatening diseases. The pipes carrying water supply to residences have long been in a state of extreme decay. At many points, leakage from sewerage pipes mixes with broken clean water ones.

And if some media reports are to be believed, in one or two instances water emerged even from gas stoves. Admittedly, the then Shehbaz Sharif government installed filtration plants almost everywhere. It is also true, though, that corrupt practice being endemic, filters in those plants are seldom replaced on time, if at all, by those responsible for maintenance.

Another thing that appears to have caused cholera eruption are the usual the unhygienic conditions, especially in underprivileged areas, execrated by the unusually hot weather for the month of May. These issues are the result of what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has aptly described as an indicator of inequity and lack of (uneven) social development.

The CDC is reported to have launched investigation into the cholera cases, also seeking the help of the Institute of Public Health for carrying out laboratory tests of samples from the affected areas. This is all very well. But as noted earlier, the two major culprits are contaminated water and unsanitary conditions. Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), needs to get its act together.

But it cannot be expected to do the needful on its own. The water supply system ought to be replaced with a new network of pipes as well as safe storage facilities so people can have access to clean water from taps in their homes, like in the not-too-distant past. Equally important is to improve general sanitation, as well as surveillance of eateries and bakeries for hygiene.

Indeed, the Food Authority has done a lot of good work, sealing several restaurants and imposing fines on them for flouting the required standard. It is a constant battle that has to be waged against unscrupulous purveyors of bacteria-infected food. Also in order is a public awareness campaign about the risks inherent in unhygienic habits. It is hoped that the outbreak of cholera will serve as a wakeup call for those at the helm, and they will do all that necessary to make life better for all who live in Lahore, making it and other parts of the province worth the image they like to project.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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