02 July 2010
Araku (Visakhapatnam), India
Sources said the spurt in the deaths is due to severe shortage of medicines in primary health centres (PHCs). All the 33 PHCs in the 11 Agency mandals have not received their second quarter medicines quota till Wednesday even as thousands of tribals are bedridden with malaria and other fevers.
While the last year’s budgetary allocation for medicines to all 77 PHCs in Vizag district was Rs 2.45 crore, it has been slashed to Rs 1.53 crore this year. For the 33 PHCs in the Agency, it was cut down from Rs 20.57 lakh to Rs 8.65 lakh.
"The innocent and uneducated tribals are suffering. But the government continues to be apathetic towards them," lamented district CPM secretary Ch Narasinga Rao. He said the cabinet sub–committee, which was appointed to look into malaria cases, did not bother to visit the affected villages.
The fevers which were confined to the Paderu region have now spread to new areas in Araku Valley. Araku ZPTC member Killo Surendra said half of the entire population in the Agency is afflicted with fever. "They are vulnerable because of anaemia and unhygienic living conditions. They also do not have safe drinking water supplies," he said.
Ironically, the medical and health officials are attributing the deaths to jaundice and other viral diseases. "We are given specific instructions not to mention these as malaria deaths," a doctor on condition of anonymity said. In another shocker, the official records claim that out of 3,200 habitations in the Agency, 1,690 are malaria–prone.
The relief operations are also hit with Asha workers, the key resource persons in detecting fever cases and administering medicines to the villagers, demanding payment of honorarium. "We haven’t been paid the monthly honorarium of Rs 400 for the past eight months," a worker, Radhamma, complained.
The Asha workers said they are given 2–3 medical check kits only. "We take blood samples on the slides. While the results come after a week, by then seriously ill patients lose battle with life," another worker, Gouramma, said.