With over 400 children dying of Japanese encephalitis in Uttar Pradesh so far this year, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has suggested the setting up a group of ministers (GoM) to deal with the dreaded disease that claims hundreds of young lives every year.

After holding discussions with the State and Central government officials during his visit, Mr. Azad, who visited Gorakhpur earlier this week, has come to the conclusion that the acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) can be addressed only through a multi-pronged strategy. “This will require interventions from the Ministries like Drinking Water and Sanitation, Social Justice and Empowerment and Women and Child Development as well.”

Under criticism from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for failing to do much to contain the disease, Mr. Azad said a high-level committee of experts had already been constituted in the Ministry under the chairmanship of the Director-General of Health Services and Special DGHS.

The Committee consists of experts/officials from the Directorate of National Vector-Borne Diseases Control Programme; Indian Council of Medical Research, Uttar Pradesh; National Centre for Diseases Control; and a representative of the NDMA as suggested by Mr. Shashidhar Reddy, vice-chairperson of the NDMA.

It was Mr. Reddy who had been very critical of the Centre's response to the JE outbreak after he visited the district hospital and realised that only a few ventilators were working instead of the total 21 ventilators installed in the building.