Sindh govt to give Rs12,000 to every HIV-infected child – Pakistan

KARACHI: The Sindh government is set to disburse over Rs13 million — Rs12000 each child — among over 1,000 families whose children got infected with HIV in Ratodero in district Larkana, officials and sources said on Wednesday.

The city of Larkana witnessed the largest-ever infectious disease outbreak among children in 2019 when hundreds of children were found suffering from the virus, they added.

The provincial authorities have “almost finalised” the process and documentary formalities of the initiative have also been completed.

The scheme was launched in late 2019 when the provincial authorities had decided to establish a Rs1 billion endowment fund for the welfare and rehabilitation of children and their families, but the families had to wait for over two years to get their first instalment finally in June earlier this year.

Rs1bn endowment fund

“It is the decision of the Sindh government to provide financial assistance to families of the HIV-infected children in Ratodero through a billion-rupee endowment fund for the rehabilitation and welfare of patients and their families,” said Dr Irshad Kazmi, deputy director general of the provincial infectious diseases department.

Over 1,500 cases have been reported by June in Ratodero since the outbreak of the infectious disease in 2019

“The fund was established with the initial amount of Rs250 million so in the first chunk we disbursed around Rs3.373 million among families of 997 HIV-infected children. Now the amount and the number of families of the infected children both have increased and hopefully the process would start next month after a few formalities of small nature are completed,” he said.

Till October 2019, around 1,100 residents of Ratodero taluka in Larkana district had tested positive for HIV out of whom at least 900 were children.

Almost two years later, by June 2021, the number of infected patients increased to 1,500, according to the Sindh health department figures.

There are fears that the tragedy is far from over.

Health experts have raised alarm over reports of an increasing number of HIV cases reported not only in the ‘HIV-positive taluka’, as Ratodero has now come to be known, but also the adjoining localities.

Serious criticism on govt

Facing serious criticism for its failure to keep check on the staggering rise in the number of deadly disease cases and then failure in providing health and treatment facilities in its stronghold town despite being in the power for more than 13 years, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in a damage control move had announced to set up the Rs1bn endowment fund in the aftermath of the Ratodero outbreak.

According to local and foreign experts, at least 52 HIV-infected children have died over the past two years, while new cases are still being reported in both adults and children.

However, the authorities sound confident that the initiative of financial assistance and enhanced focus of health experts would help offer better treatment of the infected children and contain the spread of the viral disease.

“A few months ago, as many as 997 families of children infected with HIV in Ratodero and some other areas of Larkana were provided with financial assistance,” said another official.

“The government paid Rs3,384 to a family against each infected child which made total disbursement Rs3.373 million. This time with the increase in amount of endowment fund, a family of each infected child would receive Rs12,000 that would make total disbursement more than Rs13 million.

Families of some 1,110 infected children would receive the assistance this time,” the official said.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2021

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