Friday, October 26, 2007

Diarhhoea claims 40 lives in Assam

At least 40 people have died of diarrhoea and cholera in the past two months and hundreds more are down with the diseases that have assumed alarming proportions in several parts of Assam.

A health department official said the worst hit were parts of Jorhat, Golaghat, Sivasagar and Nagaon -- most of the cases were reported from tea garden areas. The latest casualties have come in from the Borasali tea plantation near Sonari in Sivasagar district.

"Nine plantation workers have died in the last three days of diarrhoea, while more than 100 more are battling for their lives in hospitals," T. Tanti, a garden workers' union leader, told IANS over the phone.

In some areas, laboratory tests on patients suffering from diarrhoea found a strain of cholera. Authorities, however, said the strain was not 'very virulent' and there was no need to panic.

"The disease is spreading mostly in tea gardens and it is primarily due to lack of basic hygiene, non-availability of clean drinking water, and poor sanitation facilities. The garden managements should provide these amenities to their workers," a senior health department official said.

The Assam health department has sounded a general alert and launched a massive cleanliness drive, including distribution of water purifying tablets in the affected areas.

"All precautionary measures were being taken and the patients provided with the best of medical care," the official said.

"We appeal to anyone down with symptoms of diarrhoea to come to the nearest hospital immediately," he added.

In its most severe form, cholera is one of the most rapidly fatal illnesses known -- a healthy person may die within two to three hours of the onset of symptoms.

The symptoms include those of general stomach upset and massive watery diarrhoea, including terrible muscle and stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. Cholera is transmitted through ingestion of faeces-contaminated water loaded with the cholera bacterium.

The source of the contamination is typically other cholera patients when their untreated diarrhoea discharge is allowed to get into waterways or into groundwater or the drinking water supply. Any infected water and any foods washed in the water, and fish living in the affected waterway can cause an infection.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

MP health infrastructure needs urgent attention

Inspite of all proclamations and announcements by the state of Madhya Pradesh, the fact of the matter in case of Public health and family welfare, Madhya Pradesh lacks the much needed infrastructure in health to match the announced proclaimations. The state has 26 % less then needed, the number of Primary Health Centres in the state. This is most basic requirement and kind of first referal unit in villages of the state. More alarming is that in case of sub health centres the number is 16 % less.

Community Health Centres and Civil Hospitals, major dependency units,the number is 25 % less. Though state has announced number of schemes but if you have weak infrastructure, how one is going to acheive the same is an issue of debate - a call to media and civil society.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Final NFHS reports brings out stark reality of situation of India’s children and women

Final NFHS reports brings out stark reality of situation of India’s children and women. It was released today by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This report offers a comprehensive picture of the health, nutrition and population in the country. The national report paints a mixed picture of India’s overall reproductive health status. On the one hand, women are having fewer children and infant mortality has dropped in the seven-year period since the last NFHS survey in 1998-99. On the other hand, anaemia and malnutrition are still widespread among children and adults. NFHS-3, the third in the NFHS series of surveys, provides information on population, health and nutrition in India and each of its 29 states. The survey is based on a sample of households that is representative at the national and state levels. It conducted interviews with around 200,000 women age 15-49 and men age 15-54 throughout India. NFHS-3 also tested more than 100,000 women and men for HIV and 215,000 adults and young children for anaemia. The data set on key indicators provides a trend that includes information on several new topics, such as HIV/AIDS-related attitudes and behaviour, male involvement in family welfare and attitudes about family life education for children in school.

Malnutrition Persists; Anaemia Widespread

Malnutrition continues to be a significant health problem for children and adults in India. While there have been some improvements in the nutritional status of young children in several states, nutritional deficiencies are still widespread. There has been the increase in wasting, or weight for height, among children under age 3 years. Around 23% of children were wasted. At the same time, there has been very marginal change in the percentage of children who are underweight (43% in NFHS-2 and 40% in NFHS-3).

NFHS-3 also found high prevalence of anaemia – 70% – in children age 6-59 months. Anaemia in India is primarily linked to poor nutrition.

Women and men suffer a dual burden of overnutrition and undernutrition. More than one third of women are too thin, while 13% are overweight or obese. In all, nearly half of married women are either underweight or overweight. One-third of men are too thin, and 9% are overweight or obese. The states with the largest percentage of overweight women and men are Punjab, Kerala, and Delhi, especially among the more educated.

Anaemia is also disturbingly common among adults. More than half of women in India (55%) are anaemic. Anaemia among pregnant women during that period has also increased. Even though men are much less likely than women to be anaemic, anaemia levels in men are at around 24%.

Diarrhoea continues to be a major health problem for many children. Although knowledge about Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) for the treatment of diarrhoea is widespread among mothers, only 58% of children with diarrhoea were taken to a health facility, down from 65% seven years earlier.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Mother's milk is the first right of the child

It could perhaps be the first right a newborn would acquire as a citizen of India - the right to mother's milk. Only 23 percent of the infants born in India are introduced to breast milk in the first hour of their birth and only 46 per cent in the first six months. But all this could change soon with a move now to bring rights of children below six years of age within legal framework.

The right to mother's milk could be the first right that an infant could acquire. National Commission for Child Rights has started discussing the proposal with the government. "Mother's milk is nutritious and healthy,” says Member, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, Sandhya Bajaj.

The Infant Milk Substitutes Act of 1992 as amended in 2003 bans advertisement of baby feed. The law in a way encourages breast-feeding. But now a need is being felt to move beyond the law. The present act makes it obligatory for any pre and post-natal educational material to list out benefits of breast milk. What is being proposed is that the law be amended again so that some responsibility be fixed on health workers to introduce the child to mothers milk within an hour of the birth. The provision could be incentive rather than punitive.

Similarly a change in the Maternity Benefits Act of 1961 is also being proposed so that maternity leave be extended from three to six months as six months of regular breast feeding is prescribed by most doctors.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

55 % of women in Madhya Pradesh had never heard ‘HIV/AIDS’

newswhichmatter exclusive
Madhya Pradesh, a central Indian state is categorized as highly vulnerable category on the HIV status in India. Though it was considered as low prevalence zone but as per the listing last year by National Aids Control Organization it is now considered as ‘highly vulnerable’. Madhya Pradesh State AIDS Control Society along with many non governmental organizations have and is undertaking many activities to help engage communities including young people and is putting in efforts to increase awareness on the issue but challenge here is daunting. State not only has very low density of population and 70 % of its population lives in rural area, with low literacy levels especially among women. The latest National family Health Survey data clearly advocates the same and is an urgent call for accentuating efforts in this direction. The data presents the figure that only 45 % of women in the category of ‘ever married adults between 15- 49 years had ever heard of ‘HIV/AIDS’ in the state. Importantly this data is about whether they have heard or not heard about the issue, not beyond, while it is the right information which matters here, which can help empower communities to protect themselves from the dreaded virus.

Analyzing the data further on urban / rural divide reveals that 74 % of women in the urban areas of Madhya Pradesh had heard about ‘HIV/AIDS’ while the figures for rural areas is 35 % of women. This is clear indicatio that in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh 65 % of women have never heard of HIV/AIDS. Awareness among men is much better at 95 % in urban areas and 59 % in rural areas. But even these figures tell us that it is rural areas where we need to focus more on our communication efforts.

Experts say that women are more vulnerable to HIV /AIDS as compared to men, the area where efforts need to be targeted. This with range of factors like poverty, lack of information and decision power and gender discrimination makes them more vulnerable. The area where the state should concentrate to increase awareness on prevention of HIV/AIDS would be to focus on the rural areas including women and provide information which is easy to understand in a language and manner which is possible to assimilate.

Contributed by Anil

MP’s Missing children figures fudged !

Only 199 children have gone missing in the last twenty two years in the state of Madhya Pradesh. As per the (NCRB) National Crime Records Bureau data, listed on its web site which has figures for the period 01/01/1985 to 31/08/2007 reveals the same. If one totals the figures listed on its various columns and taking children upto the age of 18 years (as per state in International Convention on the rights of the Child only 199 children have gone missing in last twenty years in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The figures provided are as follows -

Male in the age 0-12 yrs - 52
Female in the age of 0 – 12 yrs - 56

Male in the age of 12- 18 yrs – 65
Female in the age of 13- 18 yrs – 26

The Week a National Magazine, September last year had an article stating that more than ten thousand girls are been trafficked from the state of MP and Chhatisgarh alone.

What kind of figures is NCRB putting on its site ?

Activists working in the field of child protection say that, figures are fudged, reporting is almost to minimal and hardly done. Number of unreported cases is much much higher than reported cases. In fact there is no proportion. In many cases parents of missing children go to the police only after they lose contact with the children...

May be a call for civil society and media to raise not the concern but an alarm or else children of the state will go missing unreported.

Effort to save Great Bustard

Ministry of Environment and Forest has decided to set up a task force for conserving the endangered species Great Bustard and to save its declining population. The bird has been declared "critically endangered" in the International Union for Conservation of Natural Resources (IUCNs) red list. The decision was taken at a workshop held recently and attended by environment ministry officials and wildlife experts from NGOs who felt that poaching and habitat destruction were the main causes for the dwindling population of the bird. The experts agreed to have in-situ and ex-situ conservation plan for these large brown and white majestic birds found in arid and semi-arid grasslands of the country. The great bustards are among a few birds found only in India and their number at present stands at 1,000.