Security forces, copter in service to curb malaria in Tripura

Agartala, Jul 5: Central paramilitary and state forces, along with health workers, have fanned out in Tripura while a helicopter has also been pressed into service to control malaria. Over 61 people have died due to the disease and over a lakh have fallen ill, a minister said here Saturday.

“At least 61 people, including 43 children, have died due to malaria since the first week of June,” Tripura Health and Family Welfare Minister Badal Choudhury told reporters.

He said: “Over 120,000 people, mostly tribals, have fallen ill with malaria and fever after the outbreak of the disease. Of the sick people, malaria germ was found in the blood of over 20,300 men, women and children.” The minister said of the 61 dead, 32 died in government hospitals and remaining in their homes.

Choudhury said the troopers of Border Security Force (BSF) and Tripura State Rifles (TSR) have fanned out in remote and tribal-inhabited operational areas to help the sick people.

A helicopter has been pressed into service to ferry doctors and patients to and fro the inaccessible areas in emergency.

“We have brought a large number of patients to the hospitals from remote areas and sent them back home after treatment,” the minister said.

He added food and treatment are also given to people who are staying in the hospitals along with their patients. Experts from Medecines Sans Frontieres (MSF), an independent international medical humanitarian organisation, are now on a visit in the malaria-hit areas.

“The MSF has extended its help by providing medicines and expertise to deal with the outbreak of malaria in Tripura,” Choudhury said.

He said the MSF has also assured the state government to supply more medicines to help the state authorities in controlling the incidence of the disease.

The outbreak of malaria and fever were reported from the tribal-dominated mountainous areas of 11 sub-divisions under five districts — Dhalai, Gomti, Khowai, North Tripura and South Tripura.

All the affected people have been admitted to government hospitals.

The state health minister has sent an urgent letter to union Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan to send medicines and experts to deal with the situation.

“Though there is no shortage of medicines, but we need medicines for critical patients suffering from malaria in Tripura,” Choudhury said. He added the state government has collected anti-malaria medicines from Guwahati, Kolkata and Delhi.

A team of experts from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), led by its special director Awadesh Kumar recently visited malaria-affected areas in the state. Meanwhile, leaves of all doctors, nurses and health workers have been cancelled.

All the northeastern states besides West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka are highly malaria-prone.

Over a 100 people die every year due to the disease in the seven northeastern states, excluding Sikkim.

According to NVBDCP, malaria claimed 1,018 lives in 2010 in India, 754 in 2011, 519 in 2012 and 440 in 2013.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Congress has announced it will launch a stir from next week to protest the Left Front government’s alleged failure to control the outbreak of the seasonal disease.