In recent months Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) outbreak hit the state of Bihar and in particular Muzaffarpur district claiming 150 young lives, mainly children , in the age group of 1 to 10 years.
Ironically this is not the first time that this area has been the victim of this deadly condition; more than 700 children in 2014 and 143 children in 2013 lost their lives because of AES. The sad reality is that every year children are dying due to this condition.
This year this grim reality came to media and public attention because of the controversy surrounding Litchi fruits. Muzaffarpur is the largest producer of Litchis and Litchi’s were implicated in deaths of children.
Save A Mother (SAM) team led by Dr Shiban Ganju visited this area. Dr Ganju was accompanied by few others; all the way he was wondering what shall the place look like , what shall be the state there , all that we hear in media is it true , is litchi consumption is causing these deaths? When he reached there Pandora’s box opened up .He found mothers living in mortal fear for their children, horrific images of suffering children and whole communities living in a state of demoralization and helplessness.They appear pleading to anyone and everyone stepping in there to save them from this misery and every time their hopes fall flat .
It is unbelievable that almost all children in this region aged 6 months to 2 years are starving let alone have a stomach full square meal of the day. More than half of them are suffering from anaemia and stunted and many of them are wasted . Most of these children will probably never recover during their entire lifetime from these negative health impacts and will scar them forever physically , mentally and of course financially too.
Mothers are in an equally sad state with hardly any antenatal care, any awareness about safe pregnancy care or use of contraception. They have no control and are as passive ‘children making’ machines. In absence of awareness about healthy practices, they are reproducing at the cost of their own health and unknowingly step into vicious cycle of disease and poverty and only culmination being death.
Sad fact is that when such major incidents (like AES outbreak ) happen they stay in public eye and media focus for a short period that is until they carry “the sensational value“. Reassurances and promises by all stakeholders to resolve underlying issues fly around . Unfortunately all these promises are hollow and the sad realities just live as a statistic .
Dr Shiban Ganju and SAM team decided otherwise and are commencing work in 152 villages of Minapur block of Muzaffarpur(Bihar), which has been the worst hit area.
Having worked previously in similarly deprived and marginalized community , SAM will focus on preventable and major contributing factors for deaths due to AES. They will also establish collaborative efforts with research institute to investigate the causes of encephalitis in Minapur and endeavor to prevent future tragedies.
In 3 years SAM aims to reduce death of mothers by 80% , infants death by 50% . Reduce malnutrition in children by half and increase universal immunization coverage to 90 % children of the area . Drastically reduce under age marriage of girls and make contraceptive use by target couples widely prevalent. Prevent deaths due to AES and other ineffective diseases .