Poverty, Govt Apathy: The Truth Behind Bihar’s Encephalitis Menace

More than 150 children died in Muzaffarpur. The Quint visits some of these families to find out how they’re coping.

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2 min read

Video Editor: Mohammad Ibrahim
Video Producer: Furqan Faridi

In Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, more than 100 children have died due to encephalitis. The Quint visited Muzaffarpur’s Ali Neora region in Bihar to gauge the situation and understand the lives these children lived.

In Ali Neora, this reporter met a family who lost a child to encephalitis. Their living conditions throw light into why children from poor backgrounds are easy prey to encephalitis. Relatives of the child allege that in certain instances, doctors were not around to treat the patients.

“There was no medicine in the hospital. Doctors asked us to buy medicine from outside. Tell me, how can a person buy medicine worth Rs 300 if he earns only Rs 300? Just imagine how helpless he is! Even then, he managed to gather the money.”
Kavita Devi, Patient’s Mother

When probed, parents of the child said they were helpless and had no idea of how the disease caught hold of the baby girl.

“We have her photo from 3 days before she died. She was doing fine. I don’t know what happened. She just died. Yes, I miss her. She was only four. How can I forget my child? Wherever I go, I miss her. Even my younger daughter looks for her sister.”
Deceased Patient’s Mother

Another parent had a similar story to share.

“In the morning, when he [his son] woke up, his eyes and face looked strange. We took him to the hospital on a fellow villager’s motorcycle. On 14 June, we admitted him. On 15 June, he was declared dead. Before that for about 1.5 hours, no doctor was present. When people started making a commotion all doctors came quickly.”
Ali Hussain, Deceased Patient’s Father

Lack of awareness and proper medical facilities, coupled with government apathy affected villagers the worst, who are unaware of government schemes like Ayushman Bharat.

“I don’t have a ration card. So I didn’t get gas cylinder from the government. Whoever has a ration card, only they get it. I applied but didn’t get it.”
Kavita, Patient’s Mother
“The government keeps saying, ‘Keep your children healthy, give them clean water and food’. There’s no water coming from the taps. How can a child stay healthy after drinking water that’s barely potable? For treatment, there should be a health centre nearby. That’s not here. We have to take our children 15 km away to SKMCH in Muzaffarpur. They say, ‘keep your child healthy, give them clean water and food’. I earn Rs 300 per day. Now should I send my child to school, or give them food with Rs 300? Tell me what can I do with Rs 300?”
Patient’s Father

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Topics:  Bihar   Healthcare in India   Encephalitis 

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