As cholera and diarrhoea continue to claim lives in Orissa, Health Minister Prasanna Acharya rushed to the worst-hit Rayagada district on Tuesday to take stock of the situation.
At least 140 people have died of these water-borne diseases in Rayagada, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj and Malkangiri districts after the onset of monsoon.
In Rayagada district, according to official sources, 39 deaths have occurred till date, while unofficial figures put the mark at over 65. Regional Medical Research Centre, Bhubaneswar, has confirmed the prevalence of cholera in the district.
Two more deaths were reported from the Taladal village of Kashipur block, while Mr. Acharya was touring the cholera-hit areas of the district.
Rayagada district also has cholera-infested remote inaccessible areas such as Madhuban in the Gudari block, where personnel of the Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force had to be deployed to transport patients to medical centres. To assist the existing medical teams, 70 more personnel, comprising 30 doctors and 40 paramedics, are being sent to the district.
The Minister, who was accompanied by Health Secretary Anu Garg, reviewed the situation at Therubali and then visited medical camps and cholera-hit villages in Bisamkatak and Kalyansinghpur blocks.
After returning, he held a meeting at Rayagada town with officials regarding measures to check the spread of cholera to new areas.
In 2007, a cholera and diarrhoea epidemic in the district had claimed over 100 lives.
The Secretary of the Rural Development Department, which oversees drinking water facilities, has also been rushed to Rayagada.
Opposition parties, including the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, have blamed the State government for its failure to provide healthcare facilities to the victims of the epidemic.
Non-availability of clean drinking water, faecal contamination of drinking water sources, lack of awareness about sanitation among tribals living in remote pockets and slow progress of the Total Sanitation Campaign are the reasons behind the recurring cholera and diarrhoea outbreaks in this district during monsoon, said Chief District Medical Officer of Rayagada, B.D. Nayak.
Lack of doctors and communication facilities in remote areas adds to the problem. Fifty-nine posts of doctors are vacant in Rayagada district.