Shivbali Singh, a resident of Kandeha, isn’t amused with the provocation that it is World Pneumonia Day.
“Instead of celebrating these special days, the government needs to do a lot of ground-level work in understanding and eradicating the disease in areas such as ours which have a high incidence,” he told us.
Semiya Devi (30) lives in this village, in Mau block of Chitrakoot district in Uttar Pradesh, and has suffered from recurring episodes of pneumonia from a young age. As she spoke to us about the debilitating effects of the disease, her despair made her seem older than her years, “I get severe cough, breathing issues and when this peaks at 4 in the morning, I am not able to sleep. The fever lasts for at least a month, and fades away with medicines, but only to return again.” She has no answer as to why her condition has not been fully and permanently treated – “Till now, we must have spent over Rs. 80-90,000 on treatment and have gone for treatment to Allahabad, Karwi, and local nursing homes. Despite the medicine, I don’t get relief, especially when my problems peak at 4 in the morning.”
Kandeha has an unusually high incidence of severely pneumonic patients, both old and young. As of now there are 4 children and 6 adults affected by it, a number that fluctuates throughout the year. The village also defies many popular misconceptions about the disease, such as that it occurs more frequently during childhood, that it is a one-off occurrence and that it occurs more often in the winter. Kandeha has no pneumonia-free season. Its residents have received little or no support from the local government health centers, and are forced to spend money on medicines and consultations at private pharmacies and hospitals, over generations of recurrent illness.
Pneumonia is a leading cause of death and the leading infectious disease killer worldwide, responsible for an estimated 2.6 million deaths in 2017, according to the Global Burden of Disease (GBD). Most of these deaths (75%) are concentrated among two populations—809,000 deaths were among children under five years and 1.1 million deaths were among adults aged over 70 years. India has consistently had the highest number of pneumonia and diarrhea deaths in children less than 5 years of age since 2000 and childhood pneumonia contributes to 17.1% of IMR. The incidence of adult pneumonia, though less documented in government records, is reported to have risen by more than 100% in India in the past three decades.
Kamaliya Devi (60), prostrate on a bench, is a testament to the severity of the disease among the aged, “I suffer from severe cough, cold, and difficulty in breath, and also experience tightness and swelling of joints. Since I cannot visit the hospital frequently, I get medicines from the ‘store’ and they cost a lot of money but are not treating me fully.” She contracts it in any season, not just the winter, and can only speculate as to why it may be recurring, “Sometimes it’s caused by drinking water from other places.“
Reported by : Sunita Bargad
Written by : Nikita Joseph