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Home > News > Report

Gates Foundation, Medicine-Sans-Frontier to help fight kala azar in Bihar

Anand Mohan Sahay in Patna | September 12, 2007 13:45 IST

There is good news for the hundreds of people suffering from the deadly kala azar (black fever) in Bihar's flood affected areas. The Washington-based Gates Foundation, the California-based Institute for One World Health and the Spain-based Medicine-Sans-Frontier will fund the kala azar control and eradication programme in Bihar.

"These foreign agencies will provide the latest medicines and treatment for kala azar patients in the flood-affected districts of East Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur, Darbhanga and Vaishali," Chairman of Bihar's Kala Azar Task Force C P Thakur told in Patna on Wednesday.

Thakur said a high level delegation of officials, including Gates Foundation's senior programme officer Thomas P Kanyok and One World Health programme director Helen Matzger, met Chief Minister Nitish Kumar recently and informed him about their decision to work for the eradication of kala azar.

According to the state government's estimates, over 3,000 people are suffering from kala azar in Bihar. But Thakur says that the actual figure is nearly one lakh and hundreds have died of black fever in the last one year.

"Several kala azar deaths have been reported from flood affected districts in the last six weeks," said Thakur. In rural Bihar, people from Dalit communities like Musahars, Dusadh fall prey to this the 'poor man's disease'.

According to sources in the state government, the World Bank has shown a keen interest in funding the kala azar control and eradication programme.

Ironically, the state government and the Centre have been involved in a blame game over the disease for the last ten years. Neither is willing to take the responsibility of tackling the disease.

Kala azar -- medically known as Visceral Leishmaniasis -- is a vector-borne disease. Its symptoms are fever, weight loss, swelling of spleen, liver and anemia.