As Encephalitis Deaths Mount, Two Grieving Fathers Speak To NDTV

Harivansh Pur, Bihar: 

As the number of deaths from an outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district continue to rise, a grieving father spoke to NDTV about the death of his child. Another father described the heartbreak of discovering his daughter was suffering from AES just as he was mourning the loss of his son.

“My child was seven years old. She was so beautiful. Ask the whole village how beautiful she was,” Rajesh Sahni said, describing how he ran from one hospital to another in an effort to have his daughter treated for Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).

“We took my child to Bhagwanpur, was told go to Muzaffarpur. We took my child to Kejriwal Hospital (in Muzaffarpur). She was then referred to another hospital,” Mr Sahni, a resident of Harivanspur village, said.

Sadly when she finally did get treatment, it was too late.

AES has killed more than 130 children in Bihar, so far. In the city of Muzaffarpur, which is where Rajesh Sahni was told to take his daughter, 98 have died at the Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital (SKMCH) and 19 at the city’s Kejriwal Maternity Hospital, according to news agency ANI.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has come under heavy criticism for his delayed actions. Mr Kumar, who made his first visit to Muzaffarpur yesterday, 18 days after the outbreak, was met with cries of wapas jao (go back)” by angry parents who believe his government has failed them and their children.

Chatru Sahni, who has lost both his children to AES, shared a similarly tragic story.

“I took my child to a doctor, he said take him to hospital. He wouldn’t admit him and told us to go to a different hospital because his condition is very severe,” he explained.

A desperate father convinced the hospital to at least try and treat his son. “After 30 minutes they told us that he won’t survive and they referred him to PMC, but we didn’t have money and there was no ambulance also, so we came back home,” he said.

Once back home, his neighbours rallied and collected Rs 15,000, allowing him to take his son to Muzaffarpur. Once there, though, there were more hurdles to clear.

“The hospital refused to admit my child. I took my child to another hospital but he died at 3 am. We came home with the body of my child,” he said.

Unfortunately, AES wasn’t done with Chatru Sahni.

“While mourning the death of one child, we noticed my other child was sick. We took my other child to one hospital, then to another, then to a third. ‘I bought medicines from my own money but my other child also died,” he said.

The Bihar government is struggling to deal with the situation. Hospitals are admitting four children to a bed and there are not enough doctors or equipment to handle the outbreak.

A petition has been filed with the Supreme Court, alleging that the Muzaffarpur deaths were “a direct result of negligence and inaction” in handling the outbreaks of AES and Japanese encephalitis by both governments.

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