The number of tuberculosis (TB) and malaria-related deaths reported by the Mumbai civic body in the past five years were up to six times less than the actual figures, according to an RTI filed by Praja Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which put out a white paper on the issue on Thursday.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) TB control unit has reported 6,838 deaths between 2011 and 2015. But the data sought by the NGO found that there were 34,914 TB-related deaths during the period.
Similarly, the BMC’s malaria surveillance report shows 178 deaths, however, the RTI found 1,137 deaths during the same period. The data was based on an analysis of death certificates issued by the BMC’s public health department in the past five years.
“The BMC only records malaria and TB-related deaths that occur in civic-run hospitals, under their disease control programmes. They do not look at the deaths reported in private hospitals and clinics,” said Nitai Mehta, managing trustee, Praja. “It is ironic that both these statistics are from the BMC.”
In 2014, the BMC had been warned about underreporting of TB deaths, which prompted the civic body to conduct a study on verbal autopsy – a research method that helps determine probable cause of death where there are no medical reports available. But the BMC did not share details of sampling, methodology or duration of the study, said Praja members.
According to the findings, there was a 22% increase in the number of dengue-related deaths between 2014 and 2016. There were 102 deaths reported in 2014-2015, as compared to 124 deaths in 2015-2016. It also stated that 38% of the deaths were in the age-group of 20 to 39 years.
“The data showed that large section of the dead belonged to the productive age group,” said Mehta. The data further revealed that more than a lakh people were detected with diarrhea in the past three years. The findings highlighted that 28% of the total number of diarrhea-related deaths, in the past four years, were in children below four.
It also found that the number of cholera cases registered had increased by almost seven times from 31 cases in 2014-15 to 207 cases in 2015-16.
The study added that councilors, who were members of the public health committee, had not asked a single question related to health between 2014 and 2015. “If they do not ask questions, how will they improve the health related polices,” said a Praja member.