Starting from 1st June, nearly 400 children have been admitted in a critical state in the state government’s Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district. These children were all showing symptoms of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). Most of these children are 1-10 years old. 128 deaths have been reported from the state, with the death toll rising every day; about 120 have been discharged after treatment and many have been referred to hospitals in Patna for critical care.
A research study based on very similar phenomenon that had occurred in 2012-2014 has pointed out to high levels of malnutrition in the children as the root cause. This causes a condition called hypoglycaemic encephalopathy, which affects the brain. The lack of clean drinking water has also been reported as a major cause for the disease.
The state and central governments could have acted to prevent it. The infrastructure in the government hospital has been reported to be so pathetic and the number of doctors and medical staff so inadequate that treatment could not be administered promptly. This contributed to the loss of many innocent lives.
The Union Health Minister visited the hospital two weeks after the outbreak, when nearly 60-70 children had already died, and promised that the administration would put “heart and soul” into fighting the outbreak of the disease. The Minister made various suggestions – exactly the same suggestions that he had made in 2014.
The deaths of more than a hundred children within just 2-3 weeks points to the criminal negligence of the central and state governments in ensuring the basic health and wellbeing of our people. It is a glaring indictment of the capitalist system in our country, in which our rulers boast of high growth rates and of being a global power, but cannot ensure basic nutrition, clean drinking water and adequate health care to our people.