Special Reports

Serving the Humanity: FC Balochistan (North)’s Relentless Efforts in Containing Cholera Outbreak in Pir Koh, Dera Bugti

Pir Koh is a medium-sized town, located 25 kilometers north of Dera Bugti and an Internal Security (IS) area of Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan (North). It has a mountainous terrain with an elevation of 1111 meters, total area of 1619 square kilometers and a population of 40,629. On April 17, 2022, outbreak of Cholera epidemic occurred in Pir Koh. Resultantly, many people were affected and the situation started worsening. The outbreak of the disease was mainly due to the lack of clean drinking water. Water shortage in the region is an issue that is perennial in nature. In summer season every year, the water springs dry up, and thus the people are left with no choice but to consume rain water from other sources. However, this time the issue was aggravated due to an unprecedented heatwave in the region. Resultantly, Pathar and Qamar Lungi Nullah, the only sustainable water sources for Pir Koh and its surroundings, dried up for the first time. Due to non-availability of clean drinking water, residents of Pir Koh were forced to consume water from unhygienic water sources. pH value of water from these sources was also in arsenic range, thus causing the outbreak of Cholera and other waterborne diseases in the city. As per the statistics of Public Health Engineering Department (PHE), a total of 4032 people were infected and eight deaths have been reported so far.
What is Cholera?
Cholera is one of the common diseases in developing countries that is spread through contaminated food or water. Its transmission increases when people don’t have access to safe water sources for drinking and hygiene. It is an extremely virulent disease that can cause acute watery diarrhea with severe dehydration. Without treatment, severe Cholera can lead to death within hours. 
Relief Efforts by Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan (North)
Sensing the deteriorated situation, FC Balochistan (North)’s troops stationed in Pir Koh started relief efforts for the containment of the disease and to cure the affected people. FC Balochistan (North) while assuming the lead role accelerated relief efforts. District coordination meeting was held to take countermeasures to resolve the water scarcity issue and to control Cholera outbreak in Pir Koh. Commander 12 Corps and Inspector General FC (N) visited the Cholera outbreak hit areas of Pir Koh and directed to step up the relief efforts. A crisis management centre was established in 124 Wing Headquarters of Bambore Rifles ex FC Balochistan (North) where the situation is being monitored round the clock. All segments of the society actively participated in relief activities with all available resources and a synergized response. After a surge in cases, emergency was declared in District Headquarter (DHQ) Dera Bugti and Basic Health Unit (BHU) Pir Koh. A gist of efforts being carried out for containment of the outbreak is appended below:
Clean Drinking Water
The first and foremost measure was provision of clean drinking water. Till now, 146 water bowsers are providing clean drinking water to approximately 54 villages and colonies of Pir Koh. Bowsers of FC, Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL), Public Health Engineering Department (PHE), district administration and different NGOs are providing potable water in the affected areas. Continuous water supply is being ensured through tripping. On average, 550,000 liters of water is being provided to Pir Koh on daily basis for drinking purposes.
Cleanliness of Existing Water Sources
Cleanliness of existing water sources was the next challenge. A cleanliness drive was initiated in which different water sources were cleaned. Efforts on war footing were made to clean the main water source of Pir Koh (a reservoir on Pathar Nullah), which was the main source of contaminated water. Water purification medicines were used to purify different ponds of water sources. A special World Health Organization (WHO) team also arrived in Pir Koh to ascertain the reasons of waterborne diseases. After cleaning, Chlorination of water sources started in which Chlorination of pipelines was also done. Water purification medicines are now being permanently used to de-contaminate the water sources and pipelines. During his visit to Pir Koh, Commander 12 Corps also instructed to construct a cemented pond on the main water source (Pathar Nullah) on an emergency basis and also nonfunctional ponds be made functional.
Medical Services
People affected by Cholera and other diseases were in a dire need of immediate treatment. However, the lack of health facilities resulted in an increased number of patients and initially, the affected people could not be treated properly. A gradual capacity enhancement was made possible due to concentrated efforts. FC Balochistan (North) remained on the forefront to arrange and pursue free medical facilities through its own resources and also in coordination with other organisations. The following immediate measures were taken for the provision of medical facilities:
▪ Initially, 124 Wing Medical Inspection (MI) Room started treatment of patients and provision of medicines. A special lot of medicines was arranged from Bambore Rifles (located in Dera Bugti) of FC Balochistan (North).
▪ FC Balochistan (North)’s special medical team comprising doctors and paramedical staff moved from Quetta to Pir Koh with medicines worth Rs. 0.8 million, necessary lab facilities and established a 20-bed field hospital in FC Girls Public School, Pir Koh.
▪ To share the burden of BHUs, a Special Cholera Unit was established in the building of OGDCL, Pir Koh. Three additional ambulances were also placed on standby.
▪ A six-member WHO team arrived in Pir Koh with lifesaving medicines and started its investigation to locate the contamination source.
▪ Welfare Hospital Sui also moved a medical team from Sui with the efforts of Sui Rifles of FC Balochistan (North) and established a free medical camp in Pir Koh. The medical camp provided necessary consultation, medication and distribution of free medicines among the affected people.
▪ A malnutrition centre was established in collaboration with the Government of Balochistan in which more than 100 children along with their mothers have been treated so far.
▪ MI Room of Pir Koh Gas Field was converted into Emergency Cholera Ward.
▪ A team of Children Hospital Quetta reached Pir Koh to assist in managing the situation.
▪ FC Balochistan (North) assisted civil administration for the establishment of a mobile lab to conduct tests at Pir Koh.
▪ UNICEF, Rescue 1122, and WHO are also actively providing health services to the affected people.
Measures Being Taken for a Permanent Solution for the Water Crisis in Pir Koh
Permanent solution to counter the water scarcity issues and provision of clean drinking water lies in the construction of Water Supply Schemes (WSS) for Pir Koh and exploration of new water sources. Digging for fresh bores at multiple places is underway for new water sources. The following steps are being taken for sustainable water sources and to end the water crisis in Pir Koh:
▪ A fresh survey is being carried out by Army Engineers in order to revive and re-energize the Pir Koh, Dera Bugti, Loti and Sui Water Supply Schemes (WSS).
▪ Digging for a fresh bore is being carried out in Pir Koh by 124 Wing/Bambore Rifles on self-help basis. 
Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa, appreciated the relief efforts being carried out by armed forces and FC Balochistan (North) in Pir Koh. While addressing the Investiture Ceremony held at General Headquarters (GHQ) on May 18, 2022, he stated, “It is Pakistan Army which always comes to rescue people across the country, whether there are natural calamities, floods, earthquake or a pandemic, such as COVID-19. Nowadays, the troops of Pakistan Army are serving the people of Balochistan (Pir Koh), who are suffering from Cholera, providing them safe drinking water. We feel proud of serving our nation".
Relief efforts are still underway in Pir Koh to contain the Cholera epidemic. Armed Forces and FC Balochistan (North) have once again gone beyond the call of duty in serving our nation. Officers, JCOs and soldiers of FC Balochistan (North) are fully committed and geared up to provide the needed support to contain the Cholera epidemic and will leave no stone unturned to serve the nation.


 

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