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Unclean water, few doctors add to crisis

Defunct tubewells, food scarcity during the monsoon and the chronic absence of doctors is being blamed for the 81 cholera deaths in three Orissa districts, reports Soumyajit Pattnaik.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2007 05:00 IST
Soumyajit Pattnaik

DEFUNCT TUBEWELLS, food scarcity during the monsoon and the chronic absence of doctors is being blamed for the 81 cholera deaths in three Orissa districts. “Almost 80 per cent of tubewells are defunct, so people are forced to drink water from contaminated nullahs and rivers,” said Koraput MLA Tara Prasad Bahinipati.

The massive scarcity of doctors has added to the death toll. Dasmantpur block, for example, has a community health centre (CHC), an area hospital and three dispensaries with a total of three doctors against the sanctioned strength of 12 to cater to a population of 74,091, spread over 558 square kilometers. Needless to say, when the health crisis struck, the doctors could not cope.

Lack of food in inaccessible areas like some villages in Kashipur block of Rayagada district is another factor responsible for the deaths. “We have nothing to eat. Sometimes, we eat mango kernels and sometimes mushrooms,” said local resident Turkuti. Bahinipati alleged the emergency feeding in Dasamantpur stopped four months ago, forcing people to eat contaminated food.

A health and sanitation awareness campaign has started with the rural water supply and sanitation department planning to put up red flags near contaminated water sources. “Red flags will be put up prominently near water sources that have not been disinfected. Green flags will be put up near water sources that have been disinfected,” said Usha Patnaik, director of health services in the state.

“Apart from 15 medical teams, village-level workers and anganwadi workers have been mobilised to bring affected persons to the nearest dispensaries and hospitals. Twenty vehicles have been engaged for this. The situation is gradually stabilising,” said Satyabrata Sahu, revenue divisional commissioner.