Pakistan ranks 5th in the world, with approximately 0.5 million new registered Tuberculosis (TB) patients annually, depicts our health policies and system in profound stagnation. Many developed countries have combated this anathema with novel strategies and got rid of it. It has, however, been metastasizing in our community with no consistent and methodical approach to aware people of its intrinsic tendency of proliferation. Resultantly, around 60 thousand people die due to TB in Pakistan, every year. Another gloomy side of this picture is that more than 0.1 million children are also affected by TB every year. By glamourizing to have a very large pool of young minds in Pakistan, the ruling elite have paradoxically never pondered the grave matter of children’s health and life.
A report titled “Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the War on Terror” was released by the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, along with Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Global Survival. It states, at least 55,000 Pakistanis lost their lives in war against terrorism in one decade. This integer is still less than those who die due to TB, annually. What makes the two paradigms so different that the former takes the entire attention while the latter is in oblivion? The priorities of successive democratic and dictatorial leaderships were to allure the particular strata of society through tangible developments rather than to address the fundamental needs of a common man. Billions of dollars have poured into war against terrorism with a notion to save the lives of Pakistanis yet no concrete measures have ever been contemplated to aware the masses about health issues. This is the reason the health and education in Pakistan is in shambles despite a relatively longer history of our independence.
It is imperative for the people, of all classes, to understand how easily TB could reach up to their breaths and lungs without prior warning symptoms. TB proliferates through one and the only medium i.e. the air we breathe. The bacteria (Mycobacterium Tuberculosis) that causes TB, comes out of the mouth of the TB patient and remains suspended in the air for hours. When someone inhales the air containing Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, the chances of him being caught by TB augment. It does not spread via marital relationships, sharing clothes and utensils etc. but through air only. People who live in small houses with huge family members are more prone to become victim of TB.
I got a chance of working in National TB Control Program (NTP). Through this program, I came to know that major obstructions in eradicating TB are not only archaic policies but also the ignorance of general population. Health issues have never been the prime preference of rulers and thus no substantial steps to nurture a common man on said subject have ever fashioned. On local and national level, there have been no sincere efforts to spread awareness about TB among a common man. On one hand, the poor patient is on the mercy of public hospitals’ internal rifts and flaws while he is trapped in the web of ignorance regarding health on the other hand. After much delayed, the methodology of identifying and treating TB patient had come up from NTP through New Funding Model. National TB Control Program had thus devised few reasoned policies in the light of WHO guidelines and financed by Global fund to fight TB in Pakistan. The complete implementation of health policies depends on a rather simpler key point that all the stake holders of health care team to be involved. This has been largely lacking in our health policies. Resultantly, the policy does not sustain longer. NTP had involved every stake holder of health care team (Doctor, Pharmacist, Paramedic, and Health Workers) to eradicate TB from Pakistan. This will create myriad difference in combating TB. A disease that took the life of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, must not prevail in his country.
To fight TB is a two pronged strategy i.e. a complete treatment and awareness. On world TB day, mere walks, posters display and trending TB day on social media are sparse. A multi-faceted approach can do much to ease this national emergency. The educational environment in educational institutions does not provide much space to such health studies. Provincial education and health departments should incorporate the subject of TB in school and higher educational curricula to aware the population about this disease. In the case of TB, awareness is the half treatment. There is a dire need of sharing preventive measures with family, acquaintances and people at work places. This is the obligation to be exercised on moral grounds. If a TB patient can spread his bacteria to 10-15 persons per year, there should be a counter strategy to educate 10-15 persons about the TB. The gruesome statistics of TB patients in Pakistan indicates that if we do not wipe out this disease in a collective attempt, it might affect our generations to come. Shall we need to compare that a life lost in war against terrorism has more significance than the one lost from TB? Human life is, after all, very important. Let’s fight terrorism and TB at the same time.