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Cholera in the times of Kashmir unrest

india Updated: Aug 31, 2010 01:51 IST
Peerzada Ashiq
Peerzada Ashiq
Hindustan Times
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A major cholera epidemic in Kashmir was wrapped under the carpet due to ongoing civil unrest, protests and violence. Unattended contaminated water sources have affected more than 2,000 people and left one woman dead. The alarmed authorities on Monday seek public support to seize the epidemic.

The cholera outbreak started in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, just 30 km away from Srinagar after incessant rains and cloudburst left many cattle dead and changed course of water of tributaries in the last week of August.

The main source of drinking water, Sukhnar stream, in Beerwah’s Arizaal area, was contaminated and later led to contamination of the Public Health Engineering’s (PHE) water sources, which remained unattended for many days.

“This year, Kashmir witnessed unprecedented monsoon and there were heavy rainfall for the last three months. There is presence of nomads and security forces in upper reaches in Budgam. They defecate in open and rains brought that down into water sources. This led to cholera,” said PHE chief engineer Ghulam Rasool Zargar.

A government sub-hospital in Beerwah treated patients in corridors and alleys of the building due to heavy rush of patients. “Since August 28, at least 2,108 patients have been diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis. They were treated in 23 health stations functional round-the-clock,” said Budgam chief medical officer Dr Mohammad Abdullah.

At least 36 patients who developed complications were shifted to Srinagar’s SKIMS hospital. “Out of 36, 18 suffered from acute renal failure. We saved them by putting them on dialysis,” SKIMS medical superintendent Amin Tabish told the Hindustan Times.

Local is Budgam alleges there was delay in cleansing of water sources by the PHE department, which led to the epidemic. “This is not true. We clean reservoirs twice a year. This time there was quick silt formation due to rains. We will clear all the reservoirs in one week. In villages, people take water from local water bodies too,” said Zargar.

Health minister Sham Lal Sharma also blamed “poor quality of water” for the disease. “Around 2,500 patients have been treated in the state. The disease is now under control. One pregnant woman person died due to the disease in Budgam,” said Sharma.

After Budgam, north Kashmir Kupwara district, more than 90 north of Srinagar, is also witnessing a rise in the number of gastroenteritis cases. More than 100 patients have been treated so far.

The government has launched a major media campaign asking people to take precautions and take boiled water.