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From Times of India - Original


Govt Fails to Bring Down Malaria Incidence in Tribal Areas

DATELINE: 17 November 1999

BYLINE: Times of India News Service

RANCHI: The state government has so far failed to eradicate malaria from tribal belts as many poor tribals have died recently because of this disease. Under the national malaria eradication programme, the target was to bring down the incidence of malaria in tribal areas to 0.5 cases per 1000 by the year 2000. But, according to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), the incidence of malaria in tribal areas varied from 3.03 cases per 1000 to 6 per 1000.

And in two districts, Ranchi and Singhbhum, the incidence of fatal nature of malaria - Plasmodium falciparum - was as high as 70 to 88 per cent of the malaria positive cases detected during 1992-97. In other parts of the state, it ranged from 61 to 65 per cent.

While the incidence was higher, the malaria officials failed to provide radical treatment to 48,000 positive cases during 1992- 97. It is also worth noting that while the average rate of blood examination was very low, tests of blood samples were also delayed.

Added to this is the 'doubtful consumption' of 37.32 tonnes of DDT, valued at Rs 23.7 lakh. DDT worth Rs 1.16 crore was wasted in three districts because only one round of DDT was used, instead of the mandatory two rounds.

What is worse is that less than ten out of 100 fever treatment and drug distribution centres functioned. The malaria eradication [sic-Webmaster] efforts also suffered because laboratory facility was not adequate: one for 20,000 in tribal areas and one for 30,000 in non-tribal areas. And, in five high risk districts of South Bihar, 51 per cent vacancies of lab technicians were not filled. Added to this, the failure in distributing machinery and other items, like 96 out of 97 microscopes were not issued till August 1998.

Even under urban malaria scheme the state government's role was critical as collection of blood smears was only 1 to 1.5 per cent. Consequently, incidence of malaria cases increased during 1992-97. Also, the state government failed to send names of three towns for coverage by the government of India. Finally, the government of India's scheme for malaria, introduced in 1995, was not started in Bihar.

Did the flaws, mentioned above, in dealing with malaria menace led to the recent deaths in Hazaribagh and other areas of the state. Though Hazaribagh health officials, charged with negligence, say only 35 died of malaria, some voluntary organisations had made a list of 65 dead in 28 villages around the Giddi colliery area alone, till November 2. Some more deaths came to notice, taking the figure to more than 100.

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