Karachi (Kashif Shamim Siddiqui): In recent times, Karachi, much like many other cities, has been grappling with the concerning spread of the Naegleria virus. The untimely demise of 22-year-old Arsal Baig, a promising student with dreams and aspirations, has underscored the urgency of addressing this issue. His burial in a quiet cemetery amidst the bustling metropolis serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenge posed by this waterborne menace.
The alarming impact of the Naegleria virus on the younger generation, especially children, has been evident. While parents can ensure water safety at home, the scenario changes drastically when children attend school daily. The struggle for access to clean drinking water in schools remains a pressing concern, one that has yet to receive the attention it deserves from relevant authorities and stakeholders. The specter of witnessing more children suffer, akin to Arsal, looms large as the status quo persists.
The issue of clean drinking water is not confined to government schools in remote areas of Sindh. In the heart of Pakistan’s bustling economic hub, where over 70% of the nation’s revenue is generated, questions arise about the quality of drinking water provided to children. Are children filling their colorful water bottles from taps with adequately purified water? Many government schools are equipped with outdated cement tanks that have not been cleaned for years, leaving them filled with stagnant and unsanitary water. It becomes a matter of luck whether these tanks have become breeding grounds for mice, lizards, or cockroaches.
Furthermore, some schools are deprived of water entirely, leaving students to bear the brunt of this deficiency. The situation is reminiscent of the adage,” Na rahega baans, na bajegi bansuri” (Without the bamboo, the flute will remain silent).
While private schools in Karachi have access to water, questions arise about the effectiveness of water purification measures taken by school management. These concerns, along with those mentioned earlier, demand immediate attention and scrutiny by the relevant authorities.
In light of these challenges, we recently engaged with a representative from the Sindh Education Department. While she acknowledged the issue, it is evident that a comprehensive solution is long overdue.
The gravity of the situation calls for immediate action from the Sindh government and all relevant authorities. It is imperative that they proactively undertake measures to ensure the provision of clean and safe drinking water in all educational institutions, especially government schools. The consequences of inaction are dire, as lives have already been lost to the Naegleria virus and other waterborne diseases.
Access to clean and safe drinking water is not a mere convenience; it is a matter of life and death, particularly for school-going children. The recent surge in Naegleria cases in Karachi serves as a stark reminder of the impending public health crisis associated with contaminated water sources in schools. The onus lies with the Sindh government and other relevant authorities to take immediate action and implement measures that will safeguard the health and well-being of children across the province. Clean drinking water should not be a luxury but a fundamental right for every child in Pakistan.