Peshawar and its adjacent districts are being affected by a serious dengue outbreak – Since July over 5000 people have tested positive for the virus and several deaths have been reported in the last few weeks. Different agencies quote different numbers of the people affected, but all estimates confirm that these are not isolated cases, but a concerning epidemic that needs to be tackled proactively by the state.

However, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has been slow to respond to this threat. It has taken protests by the affected residents of Tehkal and criticism from federal health institutions forced it into action. Finally on Friday, KP Health Minister Shehram Khan Tarakai ordered provision of free test facilities at public-sector hospitals for diagnosing dengue fever. This was followed by Punjab healthcare experts leaving for Peshawar to help their counterparts to control the spread of dengue fever and update the knowledge of physicians there regarding management of patients suffering from the disease, as well as a federal compensation package for the victims.

Despite the anti-dengue campaign having begun an earnest, the focus seems to linger on KP’s slow response and Punjab’s “timely” offer to send their experts to help. There is a time for KP’s healthcare set up to be examined – but now is not that time. Political point scoring and party lines must be set aside so that the authorities can work together to prevent the virus form spreading further. This might seem like an obvious statement, but provinces have failed to cooperate over healthcare before; Sindh has refused help from Punjabi healthcare officials before.

Punjab has suffered from a serious outbreak before and it has managed to considerably combat with help from other jurisdictions. Punjab and KP must coordinate with the center to tackle this threat.