Tuesday April 16, 2024

Among the luckiest

By Dr Farrukh Saleem
April 05, 2020

Pakistan has been among the luckiest of countries so far. We are the fifth most populous country in the world – after China, India, the US and Indonesia. The total number of deaths in the fifth most populous country in the world stands at 40 (at the time of writing). In the US, deaths per one million stand at 7.67; China 2.38; Indonesia 0.43, Pakistan 0.09 and India 0.02.

The highest current deaths per one million took place in Italy where 178 people out of every one million died. Spain 146 per one million; Netherlands 45 per one million; France 39 per one million and Belgium 38 per one million. Yes, Pakistan’s rate stands at 0.09 deaths per one million. The lowest deaths per one million: Nigeria 0.01; Kenya 0.02; India 0.02; Sudan 0.02 and Bangladesh 0.03.

The highest deaths per one million and the lowest deaths per one million are facts. What are the underlying reasons? Researchers are busy finding scientific answers to Covid-19 riddles. Somehow, the death rate in malaria-endemic countries appears to be lower.

In 2018, Pakistan reported a total of 374,513 confirmed malaria cases. Amazingly, coronavirus deaths per one million in Pakistan stand at 0.09. India reports around a million malaria cases. Amazingly, coronavirus deaths per one million in India stand at 0.02. According to the WHO, “6 countries accounted for more than half of all malaria cases worldwide: Nigeria (25 percent), Congo (12 percent), Uganda (5 percent), and Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Niger (4 percent each).” Amazingly, Nigeria has the least number of coronavirus deaths per one million population (0.01).

According to the WHO: “In the WHO African Region, which carries more than 90 percent of the global malaria burden, 37 countries had reported cases of the disease…..; of these, 10 countries reported local transmission of the disease” but the death rate per one million is much lower.

As per the WHO-China Joint Mission, the coronavirus-related death rate in the 80-plus age category is 14.8 percent. Pakistan’s 80-plus age population is 0.5 percent of the population for a total of 1.1 million people. As per the WHO-China Joint Mission, the coronavirus-related death rate in the 0-9 year category is 0 percent. Pakistan’s 0-9 year age population is 28 percent for a total of 61 million.

According to researchers at the New York Institute of Technology, College of Osteopathic Medicine, “The tuberculosis (TB) vaccine, Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), could be a potential weapon in conducting the deadly coronavirus.” The researchers have claimed to have found that "countries without universal policies of BCG vaccination, such as Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States have been more severely affected compared to countries with universal and long-standing BCG policies.”

Pakistan, where 64 percent of the population is below the age of 30 while 29 percent is between the ages of 15 and 29, has been among the luckiest so far. Was it our demographics? Or 60 percent of Pakistanis living in malaria-endemic regions? Or that Pakistan has BCG vaccination at birth?

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: Twitter: @saleemfarrukh