One of the poorest states, Bihar has been struggling with an outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome since the start of June, affecting more than 600 children in more than a dozen districts. The situation was worsened by a heat wave that saw temperatures crossing 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in recent weeks.
Most of the deaths occurred due to hypoglycemia or very low blood sugar levels, said Kaushal Kishore, additional secretary of Bihar’s health department.
The outbreaks have been happening during summer months since 1995 in the country’s largest lychee cultivating region.
Some experts, including the authors of a study published in The Lancet, have linked the high incidence of hypoglycemia on the naturally-occurring toxins in lychee fruit – consumed by malnourished children – along with the absence of an evening meal.
The socio-economic survey covered 289 families in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district. It showed that 280 families are below poverty line where the breadwinner worked as daily wage worker.
In these families, just 29 girls were beneficiaries of Mukhyamantri Kanya Utthan Yojana, a scheme to give monetary assistance to the girl child. Ninety-nine families received Indira Awaas or PM housing scheme benefits.
Most of the families have more than three children, 96 have no ration card and 124 families didn’t get ration from the public distribution system last month. Only 159 of these families got ambulances to carry their children to hospital in Muzaffarpur.
An analysis of 383 AES patients, including the 100 who died till Wednesday, admitted to hospitals show that 223 were girls and 159 were boys.
Most of the patients (84 girls and 51 boys) were in the age group of 1-3 and were unlikely to visit litchi orchards. Then there were 70 girls and 43 boys in the age group of 3-5, 36 girls and 31 boys who were 5-7 years old, 19 girls and 14 boys in the 7-9 age category, 10 boys and 7 girls in the 9-11 age group and seven boys and one girl who were 11 years old and above. Six girls and three boys were in the age group of one and below.
The Bihar government’s handling of the outbreak – which has been occurring each year for more than two decades – drew criticism from parents and experts.
Source – NDTV