Other States

Malkangiri hospital stretched as Japanese encephalitis death toll climbs

Twenty-five-year-old Nande Madhi lost her three-year-old daughter Devaki a few days ago in this remote village in Odisha’s tribal-dominated Malkangiri district. She was one of at least 52 children who died from Japanese Encephalitis (JE) over the past five weeks.

Even as Ms. Madhi comes to terms with her daughter’s death, more than 40 children were undergoing treatment in the district headquarters hospital, many of them battling for life. Only four critically affected children were being treated in the four beds that the hospital’s intensive care unit has. The prognosis does not look good for the other children as well.

Palkonda, a village under Korukonda Block has seen the deaths of the maximum number of children (7), with more and more children being admitted to the district headquarters hospital in Malkangiri town daily. On Friday, two more deaths occurred in the hospital. The rooms are overflowing with affected children being made to sleep on the floors as the hospital has run out of beds.

Villagers now fear JE will strike the remaining children even as the officials of at least four State government Departments – Health & Family Welfare, Women & Child Development, Rural Development and Animal Resources Development – were struggling to handle the situation. Children in six of the seven blocks in Malkangiri districts are already affected.

People here recall that the disease had claimed at least 38 lives in 2012 as well. But no drive was undertaken by the State government to prevent its recurrence. “Vaccination could have prevented the recent deaths of children,” said Annapurna Buruda, the Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) of Korukonda Block, while overseeing the functioning of an anganwadi centre in the village.

In the official records of the district headquarters hospital the name of Ms. Madhi’s daughter does not figure in the list of the children who have died due to JE. Devaki was discharged from the hospital after four days of treatment and her mother was not informed whether the child was suffering from JE. She died in her village a few days after suffering from cold and high fever at home.

“Had the doctors diagnosed that Devaki was suffering from JE and kept her in the hospital, I may not have lost my only child,” said Ms. Madhi, who lives in a thatched house as she had not been allotted a house under the Indira Awas Yojana of the Centre or Mo Kudia Yojana of the State government.

As many deaths go unreported with children like Devaki dying every day, the opposition BJP has alleged that the total number of deaths in Malkangiri would be at least 75, while the Congress has said the figure could be over 100.

The administration was carrying out mosquito fogging in and outside Malkangiri town, and keeping the pigs in enclosures on the outskirts of the affected villages in order to prevent the spread of the disease. At least 500 pigs have so far been killed by the panicked villagers in far-flung areas of the district.

Culex mosquitoes transmit the JE virus from pigs to humans. Malnourished children, from newborns to those aged up to 10, were getting affected. Supply of mosquito nets, along with cleanliness measures and awareness drive, before the onset of the monsoon could have helped in preventing such an emergency situation in the district, said some administration officials.

Surprisingly, the entire district had only 23 doctors working in different hospitals as against the required number of 115, when the JE official death toll crossed 40 a few days ago. The district headquarters hospital had 13 doctors, including two dentists, when it should have at least 40 doctors to meet the requirement during normal months. More doctors are being posted in the region now.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 1:59:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Malkangiri-hospital-stretched-as-Japanese-encephalitis-death-toll-climbs/article16071462.ece

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