Summer suffering: Destitutes worst hit

Meanwhile, a report prepared by a Delhi-based NGO claimed that 278 homeless people have been found dead across the city this month till June 19
A woman covers her child’s head with a cloth under the scorching sun.
A woman covers her child’s head with a cloth under the scorching sun.Photo | PTI

NEW DELHI: The relentless spell of heatwave has claimed multiple lives on the streets and hospitals of the city, attributed to heat-related illnesses, a significant number of them destitutes, and homeless.

Despite the absence of official statistics on deaths among the homeless, experts estimate that roughly 80% of the ‘unidentified dead bodies’ discovered by law enforcement and other agencies on the city streets are those of homeless individuals. In Delhi, a significant majority of these deaths (4,424) occurred during the summer months over the past five years.

As per data compiled by this newspaper from different police districts of Delhi, in just the past 48 hours, nearly 50 dead bodies have been recovered. The figure includes eight in the southwest district, around ten in the south, nine in the north, three in Rohini, three in the northeast, three in outer, and a similar number of deaths from other districts.

Meanwhile, among Centre-run hospitals, Ram Manohar Lohia and Safdarjung reported 22 deaths on Wednesday alone, officials said. 15 deaths occurred at Safdarjung while seven deaths due to heat-related illnesses (HRIs) were reported at RML. No information from AIIMS Delhi could be received as officials cited Union health ministry instructions to not divulge heat-related mortalities to the press.

An official release from the Delhi government’s health department stated that between June 18 and 19, state government-run hospitals noted 14 deaths attributed to HRIs.

 A man carries an ice slab during a hot summer morning, in Delhi
A man carries an ice slab during a hot summer morning, in DelhiPhoto | PTI

Meanwhile, a report prepared by a Delhi-based NGO claimed that 278 homeless people have been found dead across the city this month till June 19. “A total of 348 bodies have been recovered in Delhi in June. As per our research, nearly 80% of them have died probably due to heat-related causes,” Sunil Kumar Aledia, Executive Director, Centre for Holistic Development, told this newspaper.

According to the NGO, most deaths were recorded between June 11 and 19, when 198 homeless people were found dead amid the severe heatwave. “Pre-existing health conditions among the homeless population, such as chronic illnesses, mental health disorders, and substance abuse issues, are exacerbated by extreme heat, heightening the risk of medical emergencies during heatwaves,” Aledia said.

Mortality in HRIs are significantly higher if treatment are not sought immediately. RML’s Medical Director Dr Ajay Shukla said the death rate in cases of heatstrokes are 60-70%.

Meanwhile, hospitals are reporting an average of 100 such patients landing up in ICUs and wards every day. According to Delhi health department’ data, 310 patients with complaints of HRIs were admitted to city government-run hospitals in the last two days.

Lok Nayak Hospital’s Chief Casualty Medical Officer Ritu Saxena said majority of the patients who arrived in the hospital’s emergency in the last few days required ventilator support.

Dr Mughdha Tadpiya, Additional Director, Internal Medicine at Fortis Vasant Kunj said upto 10 patients are coming to OPDs everyday with complaints of HRIs while daily hospitalization is up to three in severe cases.

Rehabilitate homeless: Government

The city government directed officials to rescue the homeless and send them to shelter homes amid spike in heat-related deaths. An order issued to urban shelter improvement board by minister Saurabh Bharadwaj directed rescue drives to be conducted as part of the heatwave action plan and rescue homeless people sleeping on footpaths, open spaces, parks, etc by providing accommodation in shelter homes.

Ensure heat relief mesures: L-G Saxena

“Fifty-two people have been reportedly declared dead on arrival (in hospitals) and most of these were destitute homeless people. The actual numbers appear to be much higher,” read a letter issued by the L-G office to the chief secretary. L-G Saxena has directed officials to ensure adequate measures are in place for providing water and other facilities to the destitute, homeless and the poor, officials said.

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