Bihar Parents Worried Over Suspension of Polio Drive in Flood-hit Areas

by VR Sreeraman on Aug 9 2007 8:08 PM

Mahua Devi and Phooliya Devi, huddled on a crowded embankment here, are extremely worried because their children have not been vaccinated against polio due to the floods.

"We don't know what is in store for our children as they could not be given polio drops," lamented Mahua.

"We were told by some men that our children are more exposed to polio virus with human excreta strewn all around here," said Sandhya Rani, another resident of Darbhanga, about 125 km from state capital Patna.

The state government was forced to suspend the pulse polio immunisation programme in seven of its 19 districts due to the flood fury. Thousands of children in Samastipur, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, East Champaran, West Champaran, Sitamarhi and Madhubani districts have not been administered pulse polio drops this time.

Most of the flood-affected people living on embankments in these districts survive on dry ration with their children not getting milk or water. Ironically, these districts have reported most of the new polio cases this year.

The immunisation drive in 12 other districts began Sunday but sources said volunteers and government officials refused to visit several flood affected rural areas.

In some places, the health officials are using boats to conduct pulse polio programme.

Out of the 129 polio cases reported in the country this year, Bihar accounted for 18, second only to Uttar Pradesh with 100 cases. Till June this year, three polio cases were reported in Muzaffarpur, two each in Darbhanga, Saharsa, Begusarai, one each in East Champaran, Khagaria, Samastipur, Supaul and six in Madhepura.

Health officials said the floods might lead to an increase in the number of polio cases this year.