Disease jab at Centre
The alleged failure of the Centre to effectively implement kala azar-eradication programme in Bihar has forced many legislators of the state to sit up and take stock.
In a letter sent to Union health minister Gulam Nabi Azad on Saturday, a group of MLAs, including BJP MLA Bhumendra Narayan Singh, have demanded to know why the Centre has “failed” to ensure availability of drugs in Bihar, despite getting an aid of Rs 167.6 crore for kala azar elimination in the 2011-12 fiscal.
Singh said: “Around 85-90 per cent of the total kala azar patients are from Bihar. According to theCentre’s target, the number of kala azar patients should have been one per 1,000 population, while it is 20 per 10,000 at present. Money is being squandered but patients are not getting the drugs. The Centre’s attitude is apathetic and shocking.”
The National Health Policy, 2002, of the Union health ministry had earlier set 2010 as the target year to eliminate kala azar, however, it was later postponed to 2015.
According to estimates, the northern districts of Bihar account for 90 per cent of the kala azar cases in the country. In 2006, the Union health ministry had expanded the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme for kala azar elimination to 33 districts of Bihar.
“The central and Bihar government have promised to eliminate kala azar from the state by 2015. However, data show that cases of the disease have shot up significantly over the past two years. In 2009, around 21,318 cases were reported from Bihar and in 2010 it rose to 23,084. But these figures may be just the tip of the iceberg because many cases may have gone unreported,” stated the letter sent to Azad.
Moreover, the legislators also stated that while kala azar — like Japanese encephalitis (JE) and acute encephalitis syndrome — occurs every year mostly between May and June, the state government has no permanent epidemiologist or entomologist at the state and district-level to counter the disease onslaught.
Senior health officials admitted that the situation was grim and most hospi- tals were running out of kala azar drugs.
“We definitely have a shortage of kala azar drugs. We have been taking up the issue with the Centre. We were told that a German firm, which was supplying the drugs, has been erratic and the process is on to rope in a specialised UN agency for the supply of drugs. The Centre promised that the situation would get normal in a month’s time,” said Sanjay Kumar, the executive director of Bihar State Health Society.