Japanese encephalitis (JE) has been killing people by the hundreds in eastern UP for years now. Each year, one hears about high profile visits and announcement of a slew of measures to curb the menace.
But have things really changed in what is now known as the killer zone of UP? Not really. This year alone, the JE and acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) viruses have killed around 390 children. As of now, 270 children are battling for life in the wards of the BRD Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur.
The level of apathy can be gauged from the fact that though the region had been in the grip of the disease for the last 33 years, the state government sent a proposal to the centre to tackle the disease in 2011, that too after a fact-finding team of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) visited east Uttar Pradesh districts in November last year to ascertain measures taken by the state government to protect the children from the killer diseases.
The team had then expressed its dissatisfaction over the action take by the state government and pulled it up for its failure to prepare a long-term plan. In the last week of July, 2012, the NCPCR team again visited Gorakhpur and adjoining districts to review implementation of its recommendations. Meanwhile, an action taken report was submitted to the NCPCR by the state health and family welfare department.
But in a letter to principal secretary, health and family welfare, Sanjay Agarwal, NCPCR registrar BK Sahu said, "his team found that the health department was unprepared to stop the deaths of children.
Health services and sanitation in the villages visited by the team were found to be pathetic. The team found children drinking water from hand pumps that have been marked red and unsafe. Open pits were found and there was lack of awareness on sanitation and protection issues among the rural folks."
The commission expressed its dissatisfaction with the working of the chief medical officers (CMOs), especially that of Gorakhpur, "who seemed least concerned with the deaths".
The NCPCR even raised question marks over the action taken report sent by the DG, health and medical services, on August 23, 2012 and said it was factually incorrect and majority of its recommendation had not been implemented.
"If corrective measures had been taken, lives of children could have been saved," it said and directed the state government to implement its recommendations and submit report.