Dengue is a continuing global threat and has taken a heavy toll. Therefore, a global strategy aimed at increasing the capacity of personnel engaged in surveillance and outbreak response should be advocated. The dengue outbreak in Sri Lanka was enough to alarm the world about the dangers of the epidemic. An estimated 100 million people worldwide get infected with dengue annually, a resurging viral infection spread by the mosquito Aedes aegyptii. In a small proportion of cases, the disease develops into the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs.

In 2011, dengue hit Punjab and more than 300 people died. The severity of epidemic was the greatest in Lahore. Before it could become a national threat, the government of the Punjab, under ever energetic chief minister, worked day and night to control the epidemic. The first two years were really tough for the entire province especially in Lahore. What’s worth mentioning is the fact that all the stakeholders and departments in Punjab came together for the prevention of dengue. It was an excellent example of harmonious work in the pursuit of a sacred cause of saving people’s lives from a life-threatening epidemic. Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif went after dengue and did not rest till he made sure that the people of his province got rid of the scourge.   

A hotline called the "Punjab Health Line Project for Dengue" was opened to create awareness about the signs and symptoms of dengue fever, provide timely help to the affected people and identify areas where the epidemic may have spread. Teams of workers were formed for fumigated areas, particularly educational institutions and rural areas where the Aedes mosquito was present.

In early September 2011, the Government of Punjab ordered the schools, colleges and universities to close for 10 days for intensive fogging to eliminate the vector mosquitoes. Article 144 was implemented in Lahore city for the prevention of dengue fever. After an appeal by the Government of the Punjab, private hospitals agreed to provide free treatment to dengue patients. During dengue fever epidemics, the Pakistan Army created camps in Lahore. The Pakistan Air Force had also assisted the government.

The Punjab government worked hard to increase public awareness on dengue. Other programmes were held in educational facilities. In short the provincial government burned its midnight oil to put an end to dengue in their province. The government set up a magnificent example of national solidarity and community participation to overcome as lethal a threat as dengue.

Unfortunately, this time of the year dengue continues to wreak havoc in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which has declared an emergency since 831 people have been tested positive for dengue in Peshawar alone and eight people have lost their lives so far with the infection. It’s a humanitarian crisis and the people of Peshawar made an appeal to the chief minister Punjab to help their province in this critical situation. The appreciable fact is Chief Minister extended a helping hand to brothers and sisters in KP and set an example of inter-provincial harmony as a gesture of good will. The chief minister made it clear that humanity is above politics and all the political issues can wait.

I am all horns and rattles as to way Imran Khan’s government has handled the health sector in KPK, contrary to lofty claims has been making to turn around social sector there. Imran Khan is a riddle wrapped up in an enigma. Even though PTI politics has changed the narrative of national politics but now that they have a government in one of the provinces, they will be measured and tested against the benchmark of lofty claims.

This recent episode of dengue outbreak in KPK and the inability of the government in combating the disease has put a question mark on Imran Khan’s priority as a change maker. The people of KPK are questioning as they had high hopes on their government. They never expected to see a health deprived ‘Naya Pakistan’.

What really shocked me was the attitude of the KP government towards the teams of doctors and medical practitioners of Punjab. Instead of welcoming and facilitating them, hurdles were created in their way to operate. Life of patients should be above any kind of politics and any help that can be available from anywhere should be welcomed. Punjab has acquired expertise and improved its systems to control dengue. The KP government should benefit from it by putting petty political interests away.  The time has come for us to go beyond our biases.

If we want people to believe in the claims of change, then we have to exhibit this through our conduct. We have had enough of sloganeering in our 70-year old history. Time is now to walk the talk and reassure people that our politicians have the ability to rise to the occasion.