NEW DELHI: This year 154 children have lost their lives in Muzaffarpur to an encephalopathy of unknown origin, says a report of a doctors' forum on Friday which has blamed these deaths on "administrative failure and state's apathy".
In the preliminary report of Progressive Medicos and Scientists' Forum (PMSF), a few unfamiliar facts and causes have been listed regarding the influx of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES)-affected patients in Muzaffarpur this year even as various experts are trying to pinpoint the aetiology behind this convulsive illness and related deaths.
"We doctors from AIIMS, New Delhi, as part of PMSF on investigating this disaster come to a conclusion that whatever be the specific aetiology, these children are killed by administrative failure and state's apathy towards people," a press release by PMSF said.
The PMSF report said that all deaths occurred in children aged 1.5- 12 years exclusively belonging to families of lower socio-economic strata. Temporally, the cases peak in summer months of May-June while geographically, they are clustered in thatched-roof huts of Muzaffarpur.
Among the other points put forward in the report are:
Most people did not have access to the public distribution system as they do not have ration cards. Many children were malnourished and none had been treated for it, none of them had growth monitoring cards. Hospital wards and ICUs are not well equipped to cater to the patients coming to the medical college.
In nearest medical college SKMCH, emergency room catering to 500 patients per day is manned by just 4 doctors and 3 nurses there is no triage mechanism to sort patients.
Muzaffarpur is reeling under a severe paucity of drinking water and there is no functional sewerage system in the city. Extremely poor sanitation conditions and health care facilities have added to the plight of patients.
After witnessing AES symptoms in children, family members took them to the health facility on their own with a deadly delay with little help from local health officials.
These deaths from illness are being witnessed since10 years, still, there are is no preventive mechanism and health awareness for specific illness or for any common illnesses like diarrhoea.
ASHA, subcentres and anganwadi services are deficient in their numbers and functions, people have lost faith in the local health system. Children in none of the affected areas were immunized for Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JRV) vaccine.
Nearest primary health centre and community health centre are abysmally dysfunctional in terms of resources and manpower as compared to the national health standards
It has been noted in some cases that after treating hypoglycemia, children were discharged in a few hours and they died at home due to developing hypoglycemia.
Despite faults at different levels, no action has been taken against any official. Rather a senior resident was suspended which apparently inappropriate action and would be deemed as scapegoating in an attempt to slide the gross negligence under the carpet.
"Looking at these points, this kind of disasters are always waiting to happen in this area. Government is trying to hide its apathy towards people behind the jargons of etiological research of a 'mysterious' disease" stated the press release.
The detailed investigation report will be released soon regarding the same.