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Infant deaths at new high

- Unicef lists Kokrajhar

Kokrajhar, Oct. 17: Kokrajhar is considered to be the most developed district in the BTAD but when it comes to health, it has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the state.

The six districts under Unicef’s “Call to action for child survival and development” are Kokrajhar, Hailakandi, Golaghat, Karimganj, Dhubri and Nagaon.

The national infant mortality rate is 46. While Assam’s is 55, Kokrajhar district stands at 76 per 1,000 live births.

The death of six babies, in the age group of three-11 months, in a village in Kokrajhar since September 26, has highlighted the seriousness of the issue.

“This is a conservative estimate and if a proper survey is conducted by including infant deaths in the interiors, it will not be less than 100 per 1,000 live births in Kokrajhar district,” said Raju Narzary of North East Research and Social Work Networking, a Kokrajhar-based NGO working on health issues in the area.

The ordeal of infant deaths at Surjakhata started on September 26 when a four-month-old baby died, following the death of a five-month-old infant two months back.

Another infant, an 11-month-old, died on October 7, a nine-month-old the following day and a two-month-old on October 12. Sources said another two babies had died within this period but could not give details.

The Telegraph was the first to highlight the issue, following which the health department was forced to rush to the area to ascertain the cause of death. A senior health official in Kokrajhar said blood samples would be collected from the children in the area, aged 10 and below, to study the cause of any endemic or diseases.

While villagers alleged that the babies had died in reaction to polio vaccine, local health workers denied this. Affected families this correspondent spoke to said the babies were vomiting, unable to raise their heads and had a still look in the eyes.

The health department tried to blame it on the lack of doctors and awareness among the rural people.

“There is scarcity of doctors in the district. Many of the health centres, more so in remote areas, have no doctors. We have already informed and written to the higher authorities but till now many of the rural health centres are running without doctors or adequate staff,” said a senior NRHM official in Kokrajhar.