Teen Raising Funds For Oxygen After Gorakhpur Tragedy

Khushi Chandra, 15, set up the charity Oxygen Gorakhpur, to provide critically-ill patients with oxygen after the deaths of 63 patients in New Delhi. (Photo Courtesy of Sterling Media)

NEW DELHI: A 15-year-old schoolgirl in Uttar Pradesh has launched a charity to provide oxygen to impoverished patients after more than 60 people, nearly half of them children, died allegedly due to a lack of oxygen at the main government hospital in her home town Gorakhpur.

The patients died from encephalitis, a disease which causes brain inflammation. The government of Uttar Pradesh has vehemently denied that deaths were caused because the hospital ran out of oxygen due to unpaid bills despite media reports and families of victims suggesting so. The tragedy triggered outrage over the country’s poorly-managed state-run healthcare system.

“This tragedy was something that could have been prevented,” said teenager Khushi Chandra, who set up Oxygen Gorakhpur – www.oxygkp.com – to fundraise for oxygen in hospitals.

“This is very personal for me as it happened right at my doorstep… No child can be denied the right to life, and in this case the right to breathe,” she said in a statement.

More than 60 children died in Gorakhpur’s largest government hospital earlier month.

“As an accountable citizen of my city and my country, I feel responsible towards ensuring such tragedies do not happen again,” she added.

Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and Japanese Encephalitis outbreaks are common in India, especially during the monsoon season, and claim hundreds of lives.

Often known as “brain fever”, encephalitis causes high fever, vomiting and, in severe cases, seizures, paralysis and coma. Infants and elderly people are particularly vulnerable.

Outbreaks of the virus tend to occur in poor, flood-hit areas such as Gorakhpur, where monsoons leave pools of stagnant water, allowing mosquitoes to breed and infect villagers.

Television pictures in mid-August – which showed parents holding the bodies of infants and saying they died because they did not have oxygen – led to widespread criticism of authorities in Uttar Pradesh.

The Uttar Pradesh government has denied an oxygen shortage caused the deaths.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s government has fired the head of the hospital, as well as the head of the pediatrics department.

But the sacked hospital chief says he had repeatedly written to the administration to release funds to pay oxygen suppliers.

Government expenditure on public health is about one percent of GDP, among the world’s lowest. In recent years, the Indian government has increased health spending and vowed to make healthcare more affordable.

But Khushi said Indians should help under-resourced hospitals provide basics like oxygen to prevent needless deaths.

“I seek support from other like-minded citizens to join hands to ensure that oxygen never runs out in our hospitals,” she said.

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla. Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

3 COMMENTS

  1. But why is she collecting funds. Govt employees do not clean cities, Modi handed over brooms in hand of every citizen. Why not municipal people do their duties and clean the city. Govt does not pay for oxygen, people start collecting charity. When government does not do the duty, we Indian have become habitual of doing it ourselves instead of making govt accountable. What a pathetic state of living in India.

  2. What a pathetic ‘health’ the India media seems to be in, especially NDTV which I really thought was more philanthropic than others, and would highlight the tragedy of the innocent children ‘killed’ and their shuddering families. The tragic news should have been in the headlines for days with ample discussions for corrective efforts. The media like NDTV should concentrate more on correcting social evils, I believe, including the passive attitude of the government and the concerned apathetic officials in the healthcare. Such tragedies and social evils would not be considered so silly in an educated or humane society or state.

  3. Really a good effort. It shows we still have some good person in our society, but is this responsibility of a 15-years old girl. Why this situation arise. Is it because government don’t have money. I don’t think so and I believe most of us will agree on it.

    Why we have this type of system where any politician can use tax payer money in their own interest. In my view it is because more than 50% are not well educated and fully not connected with world. I want to suggest this little girl not to find solution for single problem instead make a group, raise fund and run a school, educate people, ask them to read good newspapers and keep them connected with world. Rest them will do themselves.

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