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September 19, 2019

Elimination of stray dogs a must to prevent deaths from rabies, say experts

Karachi

September 19, 2019

Since his school-going son and daughter were brutally bitten by a group of stray dogs in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal area of the city in December last year, Ahmed Baig now daily accompanies his children to their school with a baton in his hand and a licensed handgun as his children are scared to go to school alone or in the school van.

“Last year in December, my 11-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter were on the way to school, which is at a walking distance from our residence, when they were attacked by three to four stray dogs. Both the children were badly injured and since then, they never leave the house alone. I have to take them to school with a baton in my hand while I also carry my fully-loaded 9mm to assure my kids that I can protect them from stray dogs,” says Baig, a trader by profession, who rushes back to school to pick them up and bring them home safely.

Baig’s kids are not the only children that have been bitten by stray dogs in Karachi, as so far over 20,000 people have been attacked and bitten by stray dogs in the city, of whom the majority were children who could not run away or defend themselves, followed by women who became victims of the ever-growing population of stray canines in the city.

“So far, 135,000 people have been attacked and bitten by stray dogs in entire Sindh in the current year till September 18, the majority of whom were children and women, who could not defend themselves against the stray animals, mostly dogs. There are hundreds of thousands of stray dogs in the province and their population is on the rise as no measures are being taken to eliminate or control the population of stray dogs in the city,” says Dr Masood Solangi, director general of health Sindh, while talking to The News on Wednesday.

He believes killing the stray dogs is the only solution to this problem as Pakistan imports dog-bite vaccine from India, and due to our troubled relationship with the neighbouring country, the import of vaccines often gets stuck and results in a shortage at the health facilities.

“At the moment, we have 7,449 vials of ARV in Sindh, but we need to get rid of dogs and create awareness among the people to get vaccinated after dog-bites instead of going to faith healers and Hakeems,” he maintained.

A video clip of a dying child who took his last breath in the lap of his mother on Tuesday after developing full-blown rabies made headlines in the print and electronic media and was widely shared on social media platforms, compelling Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Information Minister Saeed Ghani and health authorities to look into the issue of dog-bite cases, the availability of anti-rabies vaccine (ARV) at hospitals and the creation of awareness among the people.

Information Minister Saeed Ghani said Wednesday the ill-fated child, Mir Hasan Abro, a resident of a village in Shikapur, was bitten by a stray dog some 40 days back, but his parents never took him to any health facility, but when he developed full-blown rabies, his mother brought him to the vaccination centre in Larkana, where doctors said nothing could be done for the child because he had developed rabies encephalitis.

Why no hospice care?

But infectious diseases experts have strongly criticised the provincial health department and the authorities, saying that even after developing full-blown rabies, the child was not admitted to any health facility for the provision of hospice care so that he could die peacefully with lesser pain and misery.

They said the child was left to die in a parking lot, which was the most inhumane practice they had ever seen.

“Even when the child had developed full-blown rabies, the child could have been admitted to the hospital and provided hospice care so that he could take his last breaths peacefully and in a dignified manner. No such efforts were made and he was left to die like an animal in his mother’s lap, which is the most brutal act on the part of health and district management authorities of Larkana,” an infection diseases expert, who requested anonymity, told The News.

Man plans protest

Another video of young man, tied with ropes and acting as a dog and barking with people gathered around him, is also going viral on social media as he is pleading with the health authorities to control the stray dogs and arrange anti-rabies vaccine at hospitals to prevent deaths from the rabies encephalitis.

“I’m portraying as a dog to draw the attention of the authorities to the need to eliminate the stray dog population in the Sanghar district, where a young boy and woman have died due to rabies, while thousands of children have so far been bitten by stray dogs. We demand elimination of all stray dogs and provision of ARV at our hospitals,” the man demanded.

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