Malkangiri, Odisha: In the tribal-dominated Malkangiri district of Odisha, over 60 children have lost their lives owing to a vector borne disease – Japanese Encephalitis in the last two months.
Rama Madokami’s four-year-old son Bhuva was admitted to the Malkangiri’s district headquarter hospital. While Rama was hoping that his son would survive, he succumbed to the disease a day later.
Fearing his other two children may meet a similar fate, Rama culled all his pigs.
“My wife borrowed money for an auto-rickshaw and took Bhuva to the hospital but we couldn’t save him,” he told NDTV.
While the district administration has set up initiatives and awareness campaigns in the villages, it hasn’t helped much as the killer disease alarmingly spread across all seven blocks of the district.
The Malkangiri district has had a known history of recurring spells of Japanese Encephalitis in the past. As the death toll rises, knee jerk reactions from the government haven’t been able to contain the epidemic.
Odisha government has recently announced that in order to boost the immunity of the children, cooked food will be provided twice a day instead of the usual one meal a day. It also said that children up to the age of six and lactating mothers will be served hot food: rice and egg curry or pulses twice a day.
On the government’s move, Rama says, “Can immunity improve overnight?”
Dr Kalyani Sarkar, Additional District Medical Officer, Malkangiri, told NDTV they are targeting the epidemic in three ways – “Control the breeding of mosquitoes, increase immunity in children and isolate the carriers – pigs.”
A six-member team, headed by the public health director, conducted door-to-door disease surveillance, fogging and other preventive measures. As the tribal people extensively rear pigs, they are abundantly available in the area. They have been instructed to isolate pigs at least 3 km from villages and cull infected pigs.