Agartala: Tripura has been battling malaria for the past two months. A fresh outbreak has compounded the already grim situation, leading to deaths of 120 people across the state.
Village after village has been affected, and a majority of the dead are children. Like Dhanaram's two-year-old nephew Biswaram who died of malaria last week. The family is extremely poor and doesn't have access to basic healthcare since he lives in a remote village.
Till the doctor said, he was not even aware that the fever which Biswaram suffered was because of malaria.
Health department officials say the disease mostly affects children because due to their lesser immunity. However, the reasons for the latest deadly outbreak, which began in May, are unclear.
Some officials say it could be due to inadequate rainfall. Generally, heavy rains wash away the larva of the mosquitoes, but this year the rainfall was too low.
But health experts squarely blame the state government for their under-preparedness to handle the crisis. The critics say that the number of doctors is very low in worst-affected areas.
The government has, however, countered all the criticism. "All the places are hilly and there have been rains, so it was difficult for the doctors to reach in time. Even WHO says that Malaria cannot be eradicated, countries have been taking step," said Tripura Health Minister Badal Choudhury.
Documents available with NDTV show that the state had managed to utilise only 21 per cent of the total funds sanctioned by Centre for combating vector borne diseases in 2012-13. In 2013-14, Tripura was allocated Rs 193 crore under the National Rural Health Mission, of which only Rs 17.80 crore was given for vector-borne diseases as per the action plan. For a state with a population of 37 lakhs , the funds were sufficient but ulitisation was poor.
Other factors like lack of knowledge of health workers and purchase of wrong medicines by the state government have caused resentment among health workers. The state government is being blamed by critics and Opposition for purchasing Chloroquine, a drug used for malaria caused due to Plasmodium Vivax. They say that almost all the cases of malaria were due to Plasmodium falciparum, the more fatal form of malaria for which Chloroquine is of no use.