The Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) has claimed the lives of 172 children in Bihar till Friday evening, plunging the state in a grim crisis. The deadly outbreak of the disease has gripped the children of the state since the beginning of June.
The worst-hit district is Muzaffarpur where a total of 605 affected children were hospitalised out of which 374 were discharged after treatment and 133 others lost their battle against the disease.It is followed by Vaishali where 20 children have lost the battle with AES. Another six children have lost their lives in Begusarai district, five in Samastipur, two each in Motihari, Patna and Bettiah and one each in Bhagalpur and Gopalganj.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar raised the issue of AES in JDU legislative party meeting. He said that the disease is spreading in the areas around Muzaffarpur but the cause of the disease, it is yet to be known.
The CM added that depending on the symptoms the disease is treated and many steps have been taken. He also said that surveys are being done, the affected families have been given a compensation of Rs 4 lakh from the Chief Minister Relief Fund and foodgrains have been sent to every household.
According to news agency PTI, a group of doctors, which conducted an independent inquiry into the recent deaths of children in Muzaffarpur has blamed "administrative failure" and the "state's apathy towards people" for the tragedy.
It has also claimed that the parents of most of the deceased children had no access to the public distribution system as they did not have ration cards.
Most of the children were malnourished and none had been treated for it. Also, none of them had growth-monitoring cards, a preliminary report prepared by the fact-finding team of doctors under the banner of "Progressive Medicos and Scientists' Forum" (PMSF) stated.
The group also had doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi. These deaths have been happening for the last 10 years and still, there is no preventive mechanism and health awareness for specific illnesses or a common ailment like diarrhoea in the area, PMSF national convenor and former president of AIIMS Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti said.
"There is a severe shortage of drinking water and no functional sewerage system in the entire Muzaffarpur district. Sanitation is very poor, even at the health facilities," he added.