SHILLONG: The Voluntary Association for Social Upliftment (VASU) has said that the skin disease that was there in Mahendraganj, South West Garo Hills district has spread to another part of the district, Ampati.
According to Shabnam Mohan Raj, CEO VASU, the organisation has brought 40 patients, 27 from Mahendraganj and 13 from Ampati, to Guwahati on Monday for treatment in Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH).
“Our intention was to organise health camps at Mahendraganj with dermatologist and treat the people. But after getting the threat from the DC we were scared to organise health camps at Mahendraganj,” Raj alleged.
It may be mentioned that in August this year when there were reports of thousands of people from Mahendraganj being affected by skin diseases the South West Garo Hills, deputy commissioner said that he is going to file FIR against the people who are spreading rumors on the spread of skin infection.
According to the CEO of VASU, on August 16, 2019, on a visit to Mahendraganj, she, discovered that a large number of people, whose number would be in thousands, were suffering from serious skin infection in the villages around Mahendraganj.
She took several photographs. She also shared the information with a senior functionary of the government of Meghalaya and also to a number of her friends with a view to get some assistance for the people suffering.
According to the organisation, initially the state tried to say that it is only post-flood fungal infection.
“It can’t be post flood fungal infection, because it has been there before the floods. Later they clarified that it is not post flood fungal infection. Many of the patients have told us that they have been having this disease for several years and the local medicines given in the local CHC are not effective at all, so they have stopped going to the local CHC. Moreover, there is no skin specialist in the local CHC,” Raj said.
The CEO also pointed out to the report of the health department who went to the area to get first information of the skin diseases.
The doctors went by the OPD record of CHC, Mahendraganj for the months of June, July and Aug 2019.
They had given the figures as June (313), July (359) cases and August (207) cases, a total of 879 cases.
The CEO also asked from the state government about the OPD records of the months before June 2019.
“If they go back by one year, the figure will be in thousands. Even 879 is a huge number,” Raj said.
She said that since the figure is steady around 300 plus cases, it has been brushed off as no significant increase over previous months, and hence there is no spurt in the disease.
“This is a totally ridiculous conclusion to draw. Moreover, all the villagers are not going to the CHC, so the OPD records are not an indication of the actual magnitude of the problem. The doctors should have gone to the villages and taken a head count,” the CEO said.
She also pointed to reports that the team of doctors stated that the skin infection is because of the villagers living in unhygienic conditions and taking bath in dirty ponds.
The organisation asked if they are living in unhygienic conditions, what measures have been taken by the government under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and NRHM?
“The statement that they take bath in dirty ponds is not true. They all have tube wells. They take bath in tube well water,” Raj said.
According to the organisation the government tried to project the problem as endemic and the language used was such that there was no solution.
The CEO of VASU said that if the problem is endemic, some special measures should have been taken.
“It can’t be treated as a problem without a solution and allowed to remain as such. This is a serious community health issue. If it continues like this, this skin infection may lead to more serious issues,” she added.
She also said that the local MLA of Mahendraganj, Dikkanch D Shira also needs to answer whether she was aware of the problem or not and if she was aware, what steps did she take and if she was not aware then why she was not aware, when thousands of people in her constituency are suffering?
Raj also stated that the administration and elected representatives must support the people by organising awareness initiatives on how to avoid such issues by maintaining hygiene.
VASU has initiated the treatment procedures and collected water samples from six villages and sent for testing and reports are awaited.