Nov 26, 2008

India - In this village,TB is certain death

LIFE IS just nine kilometres and Rs 14 away from the ailing population of Ganga Jamuni, but they just can't afford to bridge the gap. For about 1,200 people living in Ganga Jamuni, a nondescript village in Bahraich, Tuberculosis (TB) is synonymous with death.

In the past 18 months, six villagers have lost their lives to TB and about two-dozen new cases have come up. "Doctors at the Primary Health Centre (PHC) call me every week but I can't afford Rs 14 for conveyance," rues villager Ramnaresh.

He is the second patient of TB in his family. His daughter-in-law also died of the disease.

He was enrolled for the Directly Observed Treatment (DOTs) programme on February 5 this year but could not continue with it after a few weeks. Health facilities are barely nine kilometres away, yet death has become the fate of TB patients in this village.

Their abject poverty forces them to discontinue their TB treatment, giving way to Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) TB and consequential death. "The last time I went to collect the medicines was in March.

Now my family members are not in a position to do away with theirs day's wage for conveyance," says 65-year-old Ramtirth. He was registered as a TB patient at the PHC, Visheshwarganj on March 3 this year.

Ramtirth's next-door neighbour Hardayal has been forced to live in a separate shanty outside the family hut to keep him and the disease he carries, away. Since his elder brother Shivdayal died of TB, his family fears he may also be a patient and may pass on his TB infection to the kids.

"The problem is poverty. Despite providing free medicines for a month, these people fail to turn up even to collect the medicines and the necessary medical tests every two months," said Dr R.K. Kureel, in charge of the Visheshwarganj PHC. Chairman of UP task force on RNTCP Dr Rajendra Prasad said, "Discontinuation of TB drug is the leading known cause for MDR-TB. Once a patient stops medication, the body develops resistance for the drug hence it does not work when given repeatedly.

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