Rifaqatullah Razarwal

Health officials in the Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have confirmed the tragic deaths of three children due to diphtheria in the Shabara area. According to the health department, the virus was transmitted from a resident of the Nowshera district to these vulnerable children.

Heartbroken parents have confirmed the deaths of their children, sharing that their youngsters developed severe throat infections just two days ago, leading to breathing difficulties, and tragically succumbing to airway blockage.

Tariq, the grieving father of 12-year-old student Abdullah from Shabara, Charsadda, recounted his son’s ordeal. Abdullah initially developed a fever, prompting Tariq to seek medical assistance at a nearby facility where he was prescribed medication. Unfortunately, Abdullah’s condition worsened, and the family sought help from a local religious leader (referred to as a “Mullah”). Despite their efforts, young Abdullah’s life was tragically cut short.

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Tariq pointed out the dire lack of medical facilities in Shabara, a vast rural area with a significant population. Due to this inadequacy, many patients suffer, and sometimes lose their lives, even from minor illnesses.

He expressed his grief, saying, “My son has departed from this world, leaving his mother in despair, but we pray that Allah spares anyone from witnessing such a day. To prevent this, it is essential to vaccinate all children.”

The deaths of three children in the Shabara area have incited fear among residents. In response, the district administration has temporarily closed government primary and middle schools for one week. These schools are now being utilized as Basic Health Units (BHUs) where health department staff are actively immunizing children against diphtheria.

Nazeem Yousaf Khan, a member of the Village Council in Shabara, emphasized the need to continue the vaccination process across the entire area immediately. He acknowledged that their flood-prone region, surrounded by the Khiali and Jindi rivers, exposes residents to various disease-causing germs, affecting children and adults alike. Unfortunately, the area lacks proper medical facilities.

Yousaf Khan further added, “Our area comprises three large rural villages with a population of hundreds of thousands. Villagers often seek treatment from nearby charitable donors, resulting in loss. The establishment of a BHU in our region may safeguard the health of the local populace.”

According to the health department, Charsadda has reported 30 cases of diphtheria. These cases have surfaced in areas such as Tangi, Umarzai, Dargai, Dosehra, and Shabra. Tragically, Shabara alone has reported eight cases, resulting in the deaths of three children.

Health department officials have arranged ten beds at the district headquarters hospital and have initiated a vaccination campaign in the district to manage the situation effectively.

District Health Officer Dr. Farhad Khan, present during the vaccination drive, revealed that the virus had been introduced from the Nowshera district. They are now administering vaccinations to children aged one month to 15 years.

Dr. Farhad clarified that while the diphtheria vaccine is typically administered to children up to two years of age, many parents in rural areas remain unaware of this crucial measure, leaving their children vulnerable to the virus. He urged all parents to ensure their children receive timely vaccinations for all preventable diseases to safeguard their well-being.

Dr. Farhad explained the nature of the virus, noting that it primarily spreads among schoolchildren who are often nearby. Initial symptoms include a throat infection, leading to high fever, followed by a burning sensation in the respiratory tract, making breathing difficult. In severe cases, it can lead to suffocation and even death.