God's own country, so we claim!
by Elizabeth Menon

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Literacy status of one hundred percent, high intelligence quotient, cleanliness, religious rituals of various kinds, thus the list is endless; sounds good and One feels envious of the people who claim to have such qualities. But sadly that's only the tip of the ice-berg! Most of us like to believe that we possess these qualities. Once the 'psychological glasses' are off, One is faced with a very sad picture in deed. 'Charity starts at home', the famous dictum should be rephrased here as ' Cleanliness starts at home', which would solve most of the health problems 'God's own country' is facing now.

When something goes wrong and people suffer due to this, everyone looks out for someone to blame; perhaps this makes it easier on the suffering or gives some sort of justification, whether right or wrong. Yes, most people read newspapers, periodicals and books and there are bookshops and libraries even in small villages. But how many of us actually read materials that improve the brain power and increase health and environmental awareness and put what we learn, into practice? The disasters that Kerala is facing today are the cumulative effects of various inadequacies

There have been many such events in Kerala which could have been prevented only if adequate precautions were taken at the right time. There is one factor that is common in all these situations, whether it is viral epidemic or babies dying in our hospitals.. Cumulative effect of inadequate provision of facilities and preventive measures over the years by the successive governments and lack of awareness among the public resulted in these disasters. But most people, both in authority and among the public, found it easier to place the blame on the very people who were trying to save lives in spite of the limited resources they were given.

It is a pity that people forget that the doctors are there to treat patients and to improve the quality of lives. They also spent time to increase their awareness regarding health, diet, hygiene and physical exercise for a better future and it is worth remembering that the duties of doctors do not really include 'personally cleaning the wards'! There are staff members designated to keep the hospital wards, toilets and surrounding areas clean and to make sure that the patients are comfortable. It is a joint effort and a mammoth task, given the limited facilities available which haven't improved much during the past twenty years or so! One should be grateful that we are not loosing more babies, given the inadequate provision of resources including the number of doctors, para medical and nursing staff, medicines and equipments.

In spite of the intervention of the Medical Associations and reports from the senior doctor at the hospital repeatedly regarding the lack of facilities, situation did not improve and this resulted in the cumulative disaster which was very painful to a lot of families. It was unfortunate that the senior doctor at the hospital had to be the scape-goat! There have been changes in S A T hospital and few other hospitals, following the 'reporting of an increased number of deaths among babies' and the events that followed; rather too late for those who have suffered, the families who have lost lives and the ever so suffering medical staff.

The other disaster was the epidemic of 'viral fever', be it Chikun Gunya or Dengue! There were few cases last year, reported to have had 'Chikun Gunya'. If adequate measures such as employing more doctors, nurses and adequate number of field workers to increase public awareness regarding personal and environmental cleanliness, for disease surveillance, implementing measures to kill mosquito larvae at source, fogging and spraying to kill the adult mosquitoes were set in motion at the time, the viral epidemic of this magnitude could have been avoided.

'Chikun Gunya' is derived from an African word used for 'stooped walk of a person suffering from the disease' and was first reported around 1953 in Tanzania. It is an Alpha virus, spread by Aedes and Culex mosquitoes and hosts include humans, primates and other animals and birds. Armed Forces doctors were called in to control the epidemic and they should have been consulted in the beginning; I would like to mention here that doctors trained at Armed Forces Medical College have more training in 'Preventive Medicine'. We should control the disease from all angles as the virus may easily mutate to a more virulent form and then it will be very difficult to stop it!

Each individual has a responsibility to himself/herself and to the community. It is the duty of the motivated person to educate the others and increase the awareness to keep their houses and public places tidy. One should not blame the government alone for the lack of cleanliness and the breeding of mosquitoes! It is about time that we feel 'house proud', keeping it clean and tidy, keeping our beautiful land alien to the 'creepy crawlies' and 'the ones with wings', restricting them to only the environmentally friendly ones! So, let us keep our houses and public places clean, thereby driving the 'Chikun Gunya, Dengue and the likes away and stop blaming poor doctors who are trying to save lives and bring a smile to the rest of the world.

© E Menon



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