Sathoiwala, a small town near Punjab’s Faisalabad, has a population of about 5000 people. However, the small town has recently seen 55 children under the age of 20 suffering from mental retardation, blindness, paralysis, shrinking of limbs or muscle atrophy.
The sudden spike in the cases has concerned health experts, who are pressing for an urgent need of raising awareness regarding cousin marriage and the health implications linked with it.
16 out of 55 affected children are aged below 10. According to the parents, most of these children started developing disabilities since birth while others started showing signs as they grew up.
“When they were married, doctors were not in favor of cousin marriages. But what can we do now that that’s happened?”, said a villager while speaking to Geo News, explaining that his brother and sister-in-law are cousins.
Another affected person said: “I have two daughters and two sons and I am a kidney patient myself. Both of my sons have mental disabilities and I tried a lot of treatment for the elder son. However, nothing happened and he did not get better”.
Health experts have particularly rung alarm bells in this case. They have warned people that cousin marriage and particularly in first relatives, as it is a key contributor towards rising cases of such nature.
“There is no cure for them,” says the district health officer.
A few years back, some researchers from SZABMU (Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University) Islamabad published a study in collaboration with researchers from Netherlands and America. The study was focused on cousin marriage and their adverse social impacts.
Cousin marriages and intellectual disabilities in Pakistan:
The research, however, revealed that there are 30 genes which are responsible for mental retardation and intellectual disabilities, which particularly some into play because of cousin marriage.
It is about time that we initiate discussions on the subject and take the stigma off. It must be made mandatory for the couple to get their medical tests done so the children do not suffer for our collective ignorance.
Dr. Javed Akram, Vice-Chancellor of the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University, called it a ‘landmark’ discovery. To examine and reach the conclusion, a total of 121 families were examined with ID (Intellectual Disabilities). The people belonged to rural areas of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan, Punjab, and Northern AreasET
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