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From Times of India - Original


Lack of Control Scheme Caused Sudden Outbreak of Malaria

DATELINE: 27 December 1999

By Sachchidanand Jha

PATNA: The failure of the state government to sanction any malaria control scheme during 1997-99 proved to be a major cause for the sudden outbreak of the disease in 18 southern and central districts of the state.

This was revealed at a high-level review meeting Governor Vinod Chandra Pandey held recently with the state government officials including the chief secretary, the health commissioner and the acting director-in-chief of the state health services. Pandey strongly disapproved of the way the government tackled the malaria menace, particularly its surveillance aspect. He expressed his concern over the high casualty rate in Godda and Hazaribagh districts of south Bihar, according to highly placed sources in the state health department.

Initially, the authorities concerned with the malaria control programme had floated a theory that the disease had broken out due to prolonged rainy season. But this theory had no takers even among the top health department officials who felt that had this been the reason for its outbreak, then north Bihar districts like Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur, Vaishali, Sitamarhi and Saharsa would have been devastated by the disease. These districts are faced with the perennial problem of waterlogging in the absence of flood control measures.

Following directives from the governor, the health department has sent Chief Malaria Officer D P Mandal to the malaria-affected districts to take stock of the situation and suggest measures to control the disease.

Intensive spraying of DDT could not be undertaken in these districts as well as those affected by kala-azar due to the state government's failure to sanction any malaria control scheme. Although DDT and medicine for treatment of both malaria and kala-azar are supplied by the Centre, the state health department did not place any order for supply of DDT during 1997-99 as it did not have the funds to pay for the freight charge and the labour cost it would have had to incur on its spraying, according to a senior health department official.

While the leader of the opposition in the state Assembly, Sushil Kumar Modi, informed Prime Minister Vajpayee at the BJP's `Nav Nirman' rally on Friday that 5,000 people had died of malaria in the state, state health commissioner D P Maheshwari put the death figure at 145 only on Saturday.

According to Maheshwari, the state government sanctioned such malaria control schemes this year as focal spraying of DDT in the affected districts. He, however, admitted that the focal spraying had been undertaken only after the outbreak of the disease. He claimed that the government had supplied DDT and medicine to all the affected districts but added that the spraying work should have been completed latest by May-June.

The director-in-chief of the state health services, V S Singh, said inadequate and erratic spraying of DDT during the last few years had led to the outbreak of malaria. "Malaria is likely to subside after December. After completion of focal spraying in the malaria-affected districts, the government would turn its attention to the kala-azar-affected districts. The government would demand more DDT from the Centre for this purpose," Singh informed. He, however, added that the Centre had rejected the demand for supply of malathion.

Meanwhile, the state government told the Union health ministry that the last batch of SAG, the first-line drug for treatment of kala-azar, supplied to Bihar had been found to be substandard following tests carried out at a top laboratory.

Singh claimed that at least 12 kala-azar patients had died following administration of the substandard SAG. "The state government sent the drug for test following reports of death due to consumption of the said batch of SAG by the patients. The Centre has been informed about the finding of the chemical test of the drug. The state government has demanded supply of SAG of standard quality," he added.

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