Sunstroke fear stalks western Odisha

With people already feeling the pangs of heat with the rising temperature, fear of sunstroke stalks Western Odisha. The region had seen 204 and 31 sunstroke deaths in 1998 and 2005 respectively. Although government-run hospitals in rural and urban areas have geared up to meet any eventuality, livelihood insecurity, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and lack of access to health facilities have failed to make any impact over the years.

Besides, many deaths in interior pockets go unreported. There have been instances when victims have returned home and died in their sleep.

Sambalpur recorded 204, maximum, sunstroke-related deaths in 1998. However, the situation led to panic and since then there has been a decline in such deaths which came down to three in 1999 even as no sunstroke deaths were reported in the year 2000. However, after remaining in single digit in subsequent years, it rose to 31 in 2005 and again dropped to seven in 2006.

The toll was 11 in 2007 and again declined to seven the following year. It was 17 and 23 in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Only six deaths were reported last year despite a record high temperature.

In fact, water-stressed condition continues to be a major reason for the sunstroke-related deaths here. Despite tall claims, villagers continue to trek long distances for a pot of water. With most traditional water bodies already drying up having a bath is considered a luxury in summer here.

To compound the problem, despite a directive against work and plying of buses between 12 noon and 3 pm, labourers can be seen toiling under direct sun.

Although control rooms have been opened to combat the situation at the district and sub-division level, no such arrangements have been made at block and gram panchayat level.

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