healthcare

In the news: Gujarat's rising maternal mortality, abandoned babies in Hyderabad and more

A wrap of health news over the past week.

More new mothers have been dying in Gujarat: CAG

Maternal mortality has been rising in Gujarat since 2014, according to a report tabled in the state assembly by the Comptroller Auditor General last week. The maternal mortality ratio, the report finds, has risen from 72 per 1,00,000 live births in 2013-’14 to 85 in 2015-’16. This report contradict the Gujarat government’s claims that its health indicators have been improving.

The CAG finds that, given this step back, it will be difficult for the state to achieve its target maternal mortality ratio of 67, which it was supposed to achieve by March 2017. Even the implementation of the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram, a central government scheme, has not helped improve the maternal mortality, said the CAG.

Moreover, the report finds that 15,817 newborns died in Gujarat within the first week of birth due to lapses on the part of the health department in providing prescribed care and treatment. For instance, between the years 2013 and 2016, 56% of home deliveries were performed in the absence of skilled birth attendants. State health services have also not ensures a minimum stay of 48 hours after a normal delivery for the better care and treatment of a mother and child, the report said.

The report also finds that the state was supposed to operationalise 50% of its primary health centres as 24x7 centres by 2010 and yet, as of August 2016, only 24% PHCs functioned round the clock.

400 CRPF jawans at Kerala camp ill from food poisoning

An enquiry has been ordered into a case of suspected food poisoning at a Central Reserve Police Force force camp at Pallipuram in Kerala’s capital Thirvanathapuram on Sunday.

About 400 jawans complained of stomach pains, diarrhoea and vomiting after supposedly eating a fish curry served at the camp on Saturday evening. Of those that took ill, 109 are under observation at the Trivandrum Medical College hospital.

Newborn babies abandoned in Hyderabad

The body of a newborn male baby was found in a garbage dumping area near Hyderabad’s Gandhi Hospital last week, The News Minute reported. The baby was premature at seven months. The Hyderabad police are conducting an investigation to find out who the parents are and have registered a case of concealment of birth by secret disposal of dead body.

While the police say that this is the third complaint they have received in the last four months about a baby being dumped in the garbage, child rights activists say that there have been at least 17 cases in the last three months of newborns being abandoned. Of the 17 cases, one activist said, 14 were girl children. Activists also point out that many babies born with disabilities have been found abandoned.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Do you really need to use that plastic straw?

The hazards of single-use plastic items, and what to use instead.

In June 2018, a distressed whale in Thailand made headlines around the world. After an autopsy it’s cause of death was determined to be more than 80 plastic bags it had ingested. The pictures caused great concern and brought into focus the urgency of the fight against single-use plastic. This term refers to use-and-throw plastic products that are designed for one-time use, such as takeaway spoons and forks, polythene bags styrofoam cups etc. In its report on single-use plastics, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has described how single-use plastics have a far-reaching impact in the environment.

Dense quantity of plastic litter means sights such as the distressed whale in Thailand aren’t uncommon. Plastic products have been found in the airways and stomachs of hundreds of marine and land species. Plastic bags, especially, confuse turtles who mistake them for jellyfish - their food. They can even exacerbate health crises, such as a malarial outbreak, by clogging sewers and creating ideal conditions for vector-borne diseases to thrive. In 1988, poor drainage made worse by plastic clogging contributed to the devastating Bangladesh floods in which two-thirds of the country was submerged.

Plastic litter can, moreover, cause physiological harm. Burning plastic waste for cooking fuel and in open air pits releases harmful gases in the air, contributing to poor air quality especially in poorer countries where these practices are common. But plastic needn’t even be burned to cause physiological harm. The toxic chemical additives in the manufacturing process of plastics remain in animal tissue, which is then consumed by humans. These highly toxic and carcinogenic substances (benzene, styrene etc.) can cause damage to nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs.

The European Commission recently released a list of top 10 single-use plastic items that it plans to ban in the near future. These items are ubiquitous as trash across the world’s beaches, even the pristine, seemingly untouched ones. Some of them, such as styrofoam cups, take up to a 1,000 years to photodegrade (the breakdown of substances by exposure to UV and infrared rays from sunlight), disintegrating into microplastics, another health hazard.

More than 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to discourage the use of single-use plastics. Morocco and Rwanda have emerged as inspiring success stories of such policies. Rwanda, in fact, is now among the cleanest countries on Earth. In India, Maharashtra became the 18th state to effect a ban on disposable plastic items in March 2018. Now India plans to replicate the decision on a national level, aiming to eliminate single-use plastics entirely by 2022. While government efforts are important to encourage industries to redesign their production methods, individuals too can take steps to minimise their consumption, and littering, of single-use plastics. Most of these actions are low on effort, but can cause a significant reduction in plastic waste in the environment, if the return of Olive Ridley turtles to a Mumbai beach are anything to go by.

To know more about the single-use plastics problem, visit Planet or Plastic portal, National Geographic’s multi-year effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis. From microplastics in cosmetics to haunting art on plastic pollution, Planet or Plastic is a comprehensive resource on the problem. You can take the pledge to reduce your use of single-use plastics, here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic, and not by the Scroll editorial team.