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With Infant Mortality Rate of 62 per 1,000 child births, at 62.90 and 64.60 Zambia and South Sudan give competition to Gorakhpur

By Mitra Ranjan*
As we are celebrating 70th Independence Day, the death of more than 60 children over 5 days in the Baba Raghav Das College in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh is an extremely heart-breaking, inhuman and unfortunate incident. It is not only a matter of negligence but deliberate killing of Children who were suffering from symptoms of encephalitis. Thirty eight children died over 48 hours due to no oxygen in the hospital.
Despite the CM’s knowledge of this lapse no step was taken, leading to the death of so many innocent children. All of them belonged to poor and marginalized sections of the society. The UP Health Minister denying shortage of oxygen to be main cause of death shamelessly said to media: “Children die in August every year. What’s new in this?"
The National Convenor of Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Ambarish Rai said, "This unfortunate incident has exposed the deplorable health conditions and weak public health care system prevailing not only in Gorakhpur but across the country. He added that severely underfunded Public Health Care System, hegemony of Pro-profit market forces on health services and deliberate negligence of the government is responsible for the tragic Incident.’’
Data from health department shows 62 out of 1,000 children born in Gorakhpur die before turning one. Against this, 48 out of 1,000 die in UP and 40 out of 1,000 in India. With IMR of 62.90 and 64.60, Zambia and South Sudan give competition to Gorakhpur. While India's under-5 mortality rate is 50, against UP's rate of 62, Gorakhpur's fairs badly with 76. The high IMR is because of factors like malnutrition, incomplete immunisation, open defecation and unsafe drinking water."
The fourth National Family Health Survey figures, state 35% kids in Gorakhpur are underweight, while 42% are stunted. The district also lags on the immunisation front -- one in three kids doesn't complete the mandatory immunisation cycle. Only 35% households have toilets which suggests high rate of open defecation, resulting in 25% kids in the district suffering from diarrhoea.
Malnourished children have lower resistance to infection and are more likely to die from common childhood ailments like diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections and for those who survive, frequent illness saps their nutritional status. 70% encephalitis-hit kids were malnourished. Children have died in Gorakhpur for years and there is no dearth of data to stress the dire need to save them. This also brings forth that the public health care system is severely underfunded and lacks basic infrastructure.
In this context the CM is accountable to such deep apathy towards children, especially poor children, and also considering Gorakhpur is his constituency. The government cannot get scot free by alleging other reasons for this tragedy despite various evidences to show that shortage of oxygen led to the tragedy. Instead of accepting responsibility for this brutal killing, media and other officials have been accused of politicizing the issue.
RTE Forum strongly demands that the families of the children who died should be compensated with immediate effect and responsible officers and concerned ministers should be held accountable and appropriate action should be taken for this heinous act of negligence. A judicial enquiry by an independent Commission headed by retired judges should also be constituted for expediting the judicial processes.
RTE Forum expresses our deep condolence and register protest against deliberate negligence and cruelty which killed so many children. We urge all child rights and human rights organizations to stage protest against such cruelty and call for justice as we celebrate Independence Day.
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*RTE Forum

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