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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Kashmir faces shortage of life-saving drugs

By Sarwar Kashani, Srinagar, Aug 22 - Shakeel Ahmed Mir had to return disappointed from a chemist shop here as he couldn't get an insulin injection for his diabetic mother. This was the 12th pharmacist's shop from which he had returned empty-handed.

'I don't know what to do,' a distressed Mir said, as his mother was fast running out of the stock at home. He has now asked a friend in Delhi to send the drug.

Mir's predicament is shared by thousands of patients and their relatives in the Kashmir valley in the wake of shortage of life-saving drugs.

'We are currently facing shortage of many life-saving drugs, as supply is disrupted due to protests at many places on the - National Highway,' said Mohammed Saleem, a chemist in city centre Lal Chowk.

Jammu and Kashmir is battling with crises at many fronts for the last two and a half months, as protests and shutdowns have taken a toll on supply of essential commodities.

The trouble started after the government May 26 allocated 40 hectares of forest land in Kashmir to a Hindu temple trust. This triggered violent protests in the Muslim dominated valley as Kashmiri leaders, separatist as well as mainstream, alleged that the land was meant to tamper with the demography of Kashmir.

The government was forced to revoke the land transfer orders July 1 which invited counter agitation in Hindu-majority Jammu. At least 40 people have died, mostly in police and paramilitary firing, in the troubled state.

Some protesting Hindu groups blocked the national highway - the only motorable road link to the valley - disrupting supply of essential commodities including medicines.

Muslim protesters, backed mainly by separatist leaders, allege that the Jammu protesters had forced an 'economic blockade' on the valley, an allegation denied by the protesters in Jammu.

The supply was resumed to some extent last week though officials admit that it still wasn't normal.

'Around 750 trucks carrying essential commodities entered the valley Wednesday night,' an official spokesman told IANS.

The spokesman said before the trouble 1,200 to 1,500 truckloads of essential commodities used to unload in the Kashmir valley every day. 'Today it doesn't cross the 800 mark'.

General secretary of Kashmir Medical Representatives Association Sheikh Niyaz said: 'We have a shortage of about 90 percent of life-saving drugs in the valley because no medicines have come from Jammu.'

Nine out of 10 pharmacy depots in the state are in Jammu, Niyaz added. 'We have not received any fresh supplies, barring one truckload of generic drugs last week.

'Right now the pharmacies are just about managing by supplying each other but even that can last for not more than a week.'

According to doctors here, the most critical shortage was of anti-cancer drugs.

Medical Superintendent of SMHS hospital Waseem Qureshi said he had 'adequate quantity of life- saving drugs for 750 indoor patients in the hospital' but expressed worries 'over thousands of patients who need the drugs at home'.

One of the biggest medical stores in Srinagar, Sajjad Medicare, is also running out of medicines, especially life-saving drugs.

'We are facing shortage of about 40 life-saving drugs. The important items of leading companies that are the fastest running brands are out of stock,' shopowner Sajjad Ahmad told IANS.

'We are medical representatives and we receive the medicines first. We have not received any this month. How is the government claiming stocks are adequate?' asked Arshad Ahmed, who works as a medical representative of Menarin Raunaq Pharma.


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