Gorakhpur: In the last 33 years, around 50,000 people have died in eastern Uttar Pradesh due to encephalitis and it was only in 2011, when under media pressure, a Group of Minister sanctioned Rs 3,350 crore [3.35 billion rupees = US$64 million] but with the deaths still continuing, it seems the money never reached to those who needed it.
In the encephalitis ward of Gorakhpur's BRD Medical College, three children die on an average everyday. In 2012 alone, 350 children have died till now. While most of the children are on ventilator support, doctors are fighting all odds to keep them alive but many parents have already run out of hope.
Of the 480 children admitted in the ward, half have symptoms of acute encephalitis - high fever, vomiting and convulsion. Sixteen-month-old Mahima is one of them. Her body shakes involuntarily as she lies unconcious on her bed, it's a sign that the fever has damaged her brain.
In another ward lies 10-year-old Pankaj, who like everyone else, shares his bed with two other children. But the actual problem of the hospital is not space crunch; it is the shortage of doctors. While a 100-bed facility is under construction in the hospital for patients with encephalitis, there are just 10 senior doctors to attend them, which means one doctor for every 40 children.
"We are weak, we are poor, so no one listens to us. If a neta (politician) comes then 10 doctors and CMO will come and make good arrangements for his treatment. But because we are poor, no one listens to us," says Pankaj's father Suresh Sharma.
"Majority of the temporary post for encephalitis are lying vacant as doctors do not want to join here and even if they do, they leave the place because of the pressure," says BRD Medical College Principal Dr KP Khushawa.
Even after Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav sanctioned projects worth Rs 600 crore [6 billion = US$150 million] for the cause, it doesn't seem to have helped much.
An hour's drive from Gorakhpur is a place called Kothai, where 250 children have died in the last six years because of mosquito and water-born encephalitis. More than half the children in the village are malnourished and clean drinking water is a luxury for them with 120 of the 200 India mark hand pumps not working in the area.
The water tank that was to supply drinking water to the village is no where near ready even five years after it was sanctioned and its contractor, an accused in the Rs 6,000 crore NRHM scam is on the run.
Making the situation worse, the primary health care center of the village - the first access to treatment for the poor - was found locked when the CNN-IBN team reached there at 4 pm.Bear in mind that this is happening in a nuclear-armed, spacefaring nation with an expanding economy; but India spends only US$44 per person on health.