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As many as 11 children, aged between three and 10 years, have died of diarrhoea in a village under Lazu circle in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh, official sources said on July 31.

The Assam Kaziranga University admissions

Confirming the diarrhoea outbreak and resultant deaths at Pongkong village, Tirap district medical officer (DMO) in-charge Dr Obang Taggu said that the cases were reported during the last two weeks ‘randomly’. “Right now, the situation is under control,” the medical officer added.

He said that consumption of contaminated water and open defecation, apparently in forests, bushes and nearby water bodies in the hilly areas – as most people of the scattered village used to collect running water for their daily use – might be the reason behind the spread of the disease in the village. The Pongkong village is located about 9 km from Lazu, which is around 40 km from district headquarters Khonsa.

Dr Taggu, however, said the exact reason was yet to be ascertained, and added that stool from the affected persons and water sample have been sent for laboratory testing to a private facility at the district headquarters Khonsa and Dibrugarh in neighbouring Assam for further analysis.

The DMO in-charge also said: “Because of their superstitious belief that some evil spirit entered their village and spread the disease in their village, the villagers are not cooperating with the medical team and our department. This is the main reason why so many people have died.”

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“In case of dehydration, diarrhoea, the people should come early to our hospital. But they are reluctant to come to hospital… Stigma, superstitious belief holds them back from moving the health facilities for treatment,” Dr Taggu said while stressing the pressing need to create awareness among the villagers.

Meanwhile, an official at the Tirap deputy commissioner’s office informed that the situation is being constantly monitored by local MLA Wanglam Sawin and DC Taro Mize and added that a medical team is being deployed at Lazu for constant examination and treatment.

Further, ambulance has already been arranged to lift the serious patients from affected Pongkong and nearby villages to the district hospital at Khonsa. The DC has further instructed the medical team to stay at the village community hall to monitor the situation closely and be available 24×7 for any emergency requirements.

He added, the local students’ union and panchayat leaders have been engaged to create awareness and convince the villagers to cooperate with the medical team as the latter had a hard time convincing the villagers to come for test and symptom assessments as they believed it to be associated with evil spirits.

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However, the medical officer of the NGO-run PHC at Lazu said that the situation is improving.

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