Poverty, Malnutrition and Poor Healthcare behind Bihar Kids’ Deaths Ayushman Bharat Cover Is a Myth
Communist Party of India national council secretary Binoy Viswam MP said that the children who died of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) are in fact unfortunate victims of poverty, malnutrition and poor healthcare facilities. The recurring occurrence of the disease every year taking away the lives of kids mostly from poor families speaks of the negligence meted out to the poorer sections of the population by the governments. He pointed out that the highly publicised Ayushman Bharat health cover is a myth.
He was addressing a press conference at the party’s national headquarters Ajoy Bhavan in the national capital on June 25, 2019 after returning from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur where he had discussed the details of the killer disease with hospital authorities, families of affected kids, local health officials and others. He also visited some of the families who have lost their dear children. He said that he had earlier a couple of days ago raised the issue through a calling attention motion in the Rajya Sabha.
The CPI leader said that though the official figures put the number of deaths of kids a little more than 150, the actual number of kids who succumbed to the killer disease must be over 500. In this context he was quoting from the answer provided by the minister of state for health and family welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey in the Rajya Sabha on June 25th itself to his own unstarred question on rise in cases of TB and other diseases including AES.
The minister informed: “There is decrease in the number of AES cases reported during 2018 (11,388) in comparison to 2017 (13,672). However, due to multiple etiology and other factors there is no constant decline trend. NCDC along with other research agencies is investigating about the causative agents of AES in the country.” The details of the death reported due to acute encephalitis in Bihar in the last three years is 102, 54 and 33 in 2016, 17 and 18 with all India details as 1301, 1097 and 636 respectively. The continuing death of kids in Muzaffarpur district alone this year already crossing 150 and many still in hospitals battling for their lives make one uncomfortable in accepting the ministry claims on number of deaths.
The ministry in its reply to the question also said that the government has adopted measures to control AES which include strengthening and expansion of JE vaccination in affected districts, strengthening of surveillance, vector control, strengthening of case management by setting 10 bedded paediatric ICU in 60 district hospitals and timely referral of serious and complicated cases, access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities to the target population in affected rural and urban areas and provision of adequate facilities for physical, medical, neurological and social rehabilitation as well as improvement of nutritional status of children at risk. However, the ground realities speak of a different picture said Binoy Viswam.