In Gorakhpur, thousands have become a burden on their poor families

Lack of rehabilitation facilities for thousands of children, disabled here after a Japanese encephalitis attack, has made life a burden for them. Already reeling under acute poverty, these children are now an economic burden on their families. The monthly allowance given by the Uttar Pradesh government to the disabled in 2005-06 was abruptly discontinued.

“Life is worse than hell for my 13-year-old son Satyendra. Death would have been easier for him as well as the family,” said Krishna Mohan of a remote village in Maharajganj district on the India-Nepal border. His son contracted Japanese encephalitis when he was just one-year-old and has been physically disabled since then.

Had there been a rehabilitation or therapy centre nearby, Satyendra could have improved and led a dignified life, feels Krishna Mohan, whose finances do not permit him to take the boy to a bigger town for treatment.

No equipment, staff

Not that Gorakhpur has any such facility. The Manovikas Kendra at the BRD Medical College Hospital, run by the Social Welfare Department, is virtually non-functional as it has no equipment and trained staff worth mentioning. Built by the Gorakhpur Development Authority and operated by the Orthopaedics department of the hospital, the Kendra claims to have an IQ Testing Unit and physiotherapy facilities but everyone knows it hardly opens, let alone functioning. Also, people do not wish to bring their children to the hospital every day.

Last year, the Centre sanctioned funds for establishing a separate Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, work on which has just about started. The posts of physiotherapist were advertised when Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad visited Gorakhpur last week.

Gesture to a village

The Encephalitis Eradication Movement (EEM) that has adopted the nearby Holiya village, which has a population of 5,000, is providing rehabilitation facilities to four disabled children. One girl, who is speech and limb disabled, is to be married shortly and the entire expense will be borne by a local businessman, EEM chief campaigner R.N. Singh told The Hindu.

“We will try and arrange for hearing and walking aids for those who can be benefited but it is ultimately for the government to give weightage to the affected children in every possible way,” Dr. Singh said.

The EEM is adopting simple measures in the village such as using disinfected water, fogging and ensuring clean toilets,