The Impact of Malaria on Rural Areas of Pakistan
By Shine Humanity
Nov 13, 2023
Malaria is a serious disease which can cause several health complications. As it worsens, it can lead to jaundice and anemia. Likewise, if not treated at the right time, it can result in seizures, kidney failure, and mental health issues. In most severe cases, which is cerebral malaria, the condition can even lead to death.
Sadly, the rural population of Pakistan faces multiple health challenges due to its prevalence. Let us have a look at them:
Malaria in Pakistan
The majority of malaria cases in Pakistan were reported from Sindh and Balochistan. Last year, the total number of suspected cases in Pakistan was 3.4 million, which is higher than the 2.6 million cases in 2021. Additionally, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases was over 170,000. Out of which, 78% of cases were from Sindh and Balochistan.
Unfortunately, two out of the five malaria-causing parasites, Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, are highly dangerous, and both of them are present in Pakistan.
The condition in Pakistan became worse after the devastating floods that resulted in a calamity hitting 81 districts. It affected around 33 million people and badly impacted the healthcare infrastructure.
Malaria in Rural Communities of Pakistan
The malaria mosquitos are mostly present in rural communities, where the majority of Pakistan’s population lives. There are several reasons behind it. Some of them include:
The hot and warm climate of interior Sindh and rural areas of Balochistan is conducive to malaria mosquito breeding.
Stagnant water is another cause of the spread of the disease. After floods, large parts of the provinces were filled with standing water, which gave rise to multiple diseases, and malaria is one of them.
People in the rural areas are mostly uneducated. They are hesitant to take anti-malarial medicines and consider them unnecessary, besides having wrong beliefs related to the side effects.
Myths and Beliefs
The rural population has some myths related to the treatment of the fever, and going against the myths is considered wrong in their culture.
Due to financial crises, these people hardly meet their basic needs of everyday food. They cannot purchase insecticide sprays, mosquito repellents, and bed nets.
Limited Access to Healthcare Facilities
Healthcare facilities are far away from their residents. Bearing the transportation cost and doctor’s fee is beyond their budget. Most of the people wait for healthcare NGOs and government support for basic healthcare services. However, only 40% of the population in Pakistan receives treatment and preventive facilities.
Shine Humanity has always taken the initiative to help people combat this dangerous disease. Our services in rural Sindh are recognized by Dr. Zafar Mirza in the Dawn newspaper. Recently, we have also received donations of 600+ Mospel bottles, 1000 bed nets, medications, and 3000 malaria kits from the Aziz and Razia Dharamsey Family Foundation, for which we are highly grateful.
What Causes Malaria?
Malaria is caused by a mosquito bite that is infected by tiny parasites. When the mosquito bites someone who is already infected by malaria, it gets infected. The same mosquito then transfers the parasites into the bloodstream of every other person it bites.
Besides this, malaria transmission may occur due to the sharing of syringes and needles, organ transplantation, or blood transfusion. During pregnancy or delivery, mothers can also transfer the disease to the child.
Who is at a Greater Risk?
Depending on its severity, malaria affects every infected person. The initial symptoms may include fever, headache, tiredness, and nausea. Pregnant ladies, age-old individuals, and children under five years of age have a high chance of facing more complexities. A pregnant woman is going through changes in her immune system. Similarly, the immune system in children and older adults is not very strong, which is why malaria can sometimes become complex and lead to coma, anemia, or even death.
Reducing Malaria Prevalence
The current situation in Pakistan is alarming. If preventive measures are not taken, the number of cases will increase in the coming months. Besides malaria, other diseases like COVID-19, measles, HIV, and polio also need to be addressed.
We need to create strategies and plans for spreading awareness and controlling the dangerous disease. Here are a few steps that we can take:
Educating Mothers and Children
Mothers, who are mostly not educated, need to be aware of the consequences of the illness. We can arrange camps to educate these mothers, including the pregnant ladies. It will help them protect themselves as well as their other family members. Our education system should also look into it and include topics related to the awareness of these diseases from the primary level.
Availability of Testing Facility
In most cases, patients are not diagnosed due to the lack of testing facilities in their areas. The availability of such facilities will assist the healthcare providers in proper diagnosis that can lead to the right treatment plan.
Availability of Medications
When so many people get infected at the same time, there is often a shortage of medications. People in rural areas cannot travel to the main city in search of medicines and basic treatment. The government and NGOs should take steps to ensure that patients get medications with ease.
Availability of Preventive Tools
Apart from helping those who have caught the disease, we should also take action to safeguard others. People living in areas where malaria is prevalent have a high chance of getting the disease. We can arrange nets, mosquito repellents, and sprays to safeguard them.
At a greater level, we should also try to increase surveillance for this disease. It will help us know the high-risk areas and identify the changing patterns.
Malaria is undoubtedly a dangerous disease. Unfortunately, the rural areas of Pakistan have the most malaria cases. Hot climate, no use of preventive measures, and stagnant water have given rise to mosquito breeding, due to which more and more people are becoming infected.
However, with proper measures for prevention, the transmission of malaria can be controlled. Help Shine Humanity in this cause. Donate now and play your part in making Pakistan a malaria-free country.