There are 61 districts across five states that are known for being hotspots for the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, including Japanese encephalitis, a brain fever in children that require a multi-dimension approach for the treatment.
These 61 districts span across five states. That are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
In his Independence Day speech in 2019, PM Narendra Modi had announced that by the completion of his second term in 2024, his government will provide clean tap water to every household in rural India.
As per the data provided by the government under Jal Jeevan Mission, so far, over one crore households have been provided with clean tapped water in these districts. Notably, experts emphasise better sanitation and clean drinking water as an essential part of the drive to eradicate the disease.
These 61 districts face the wrath of various forms of encephalitis. Repeated outbreaks have contributed to the poor health of the children, especially in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Hindustan Times quoted a Jal Shakti Ministry official who said, “This represents a 32% increase in household tap water connections in the 61 priority districts, about 12% higher than the national average increase of 23.43% in providing tap water connections in the country during the past 22 months.” The government has set a target to provide tap water to every household by 2024.
CM Yogi Adityanath’s efforts to eradicate the disease from UP
Acute encephalitis syndrome can be caused by different types of bacteria, parasites, viruses, spirochetes and fungi. A vaccine is available to prevent JE, but for the other strains, a lot is required to be done. When Yogi Adityanath became Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, one of the first projects he initiated was vaccinating children against the deadly disease in the hotspots in Uttar Pradesh.
As a result, there has been a steep drop in the death rate among children due to deadly encephalitis. Providing clean water to households in these districts will help in further curbing the disease. The UNICEF has praised the state govt’s efforts to curb the disease.
The problem of encephalitis is decades old
Lokesh Nath, former in-charge, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, told HT, “The absence of clean drinking water aggravates encephalitis syndrome because unsafe water is a cause of malnutrition. When malnourished children are afflicted, they either take longer to recover or have poorer chances of survival.”
KN Bhilegaonkar, ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Pune, called Encephalitis syndrome a serious public health problem in India. He is the author of a study of the disease’s prevalence in the Bareilly district.
National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme’s data show that between 2007 and 2016, over 70,000 cases of Encephalitis syndrome were reported in the endemic districts. In the last 30 years, 30,000 children have lost their lives to the deadly disease. According to a 2010 report by Planning Commission, vaccination, vector control, sanitation facilities, safe drinking water, and adequate nutrition are the five broad measures to curb the disease.
Vulnerable states and Jal Jeevan coverage
The most vulnerable states to the Encephalitis syndrome are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. As per the data, when the Jal Jeevan Mission had started in 2019, only 2.67% (around 8,00,000) households in the most vulnerable 61 districts had access to clean tap water. By the end of the month of June, the coverage has now reached 35% that make over one crore households.
State-wise coverage, however, is not equally distributed. While Bihar has covered 85.53% of the households, Assam stands at 14.12%, Uttar Pradesh at 11.91%, West Bengal at 10.98% and Tamil Nadu 33.07%. Poll bound Uttar Pradesh has covered 31,37,390 households by July 18 out of 2,63,38,766, the HT report stated.