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Fact-finding reports on infant deaths in UP's Gorakhpur and Farrukhabad

Date: 01/11/2017

Document: Read the combined reports here.

In August 2017, over a 100 newborns died in the span of a week in Gorakhpur district, allegedly due to medical negligence in the treatment of a potentially fatal disease, Acute Encephalitis, and the lack of oxygen supply. The company that sold oxygen to the hospital, Pushpa Sales, apparently stopped its supply due to non-payment of bills when the outstanding amount touched nearly Rs 50 lakh. Reportedly, the company had been forced to cut off supply last year as well.

Encephalitis is an infection caused by viruses, bacteria or other pathogens that triggers brain inflammation. As the brain swells, it gets crushed against the skull, causing seizures and strokes, and sometimes, death.

Gorakhpur district, in particular, is notorious for having some of the worst standards of hygiene and cleanliness in the whole country, and this is not without its repercussions on public health. Indeed, health department data shows that 62 out of 1,000 children born in Gorakhpur die before turning one. NFHS 4 data further shows that 35% children in Gorakhpur are underweight, while 42% are stunted. One in three children do not complete the mandatory immunization cycle. Only 35% of its households have a toilet, which suggests a high rate of open defecation, which results in 25% of children suffering from diarrhoea.

Shortly after this, news of the death of 49 infants emerged from Farrukhabad, another district in the state. Media reports said that the children had died of a lack of oxygen supply and of easily treatable issues such as premature delivery and breathing complications. 19 of the 49 infants reportedly died right after birth. The Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Medical Superintendent of Farrukhabad went on record, reporting that the children had died due to prenatal asphyxia.

Farrukhabad has a staggering Infant Mortality Rate of 78 (per 1,000 live births, and under-5 mortality rate of 54. Most of these deaths are reportedly caused by diarrhea, anemia, and respiratory infections. As suggested by these figures, we also found that child health facilities in Farrukhabad are exceptionally pathetic. Less than 6.9% of children in the district receive adequate nutrition. 38.7% of children are diagnosed with anemia, 31.4% are underweight, while a staggering 49.10% have stunted growth.

HRLN compiled fact-finding reports on both cases to ascertain the facts of the cases.

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