The World Health Organisation (WHO) says providing safe drinking water is mandatory for containing a cholera outbreak. Yet, safe drinking water continues to be a mirage for the residents of the coastal villages, including Puthiyathura. Even little children have to draw and carry water from neighbourhood wells. Health and Revenue officials say water is being supplied in tankers, while KWA officials denied this. Long queues of plastic pots waited for the tankers to arrive at various locations in the villages. The tankers failed to arrive till late in the afternoon. While the water comes for free now, till last week the residents used to pay Rs 5 per pot of water.
The panchayat taps give the residents water once in about two or three days. But the water is so murky that the residents cannot use it for kitchen purposes. The boy shows the colour of the murky water. Community Medicine expert Dr Vijayakumar said that ingesting contaminated water while bathing is just as dangerous.
Health Inspector Nesan, accompanied by junior public health nurses and Asha workers, visiting the house of Jermana and Mary, who were admitted to hospital with symptoms of cholera. In the inset is Shyni, the sister of Francis, 31, who was admitted to a private hospital after several bouts of vomiting, with her daughter. The vomiting subsided in a couple of days but diarrhoea persisted and Francis is now at the Pulluvila PHC.
Old women seemed to easily fall prey to the disease. While Veronica was taken to the PHC with a severe abdominal pain that continued for many days, Jermana, 70, and Mary, 65, were taken to hospital by health workers in the area after severe diarrhoea and vomiting. All of them were admitted to hospital on Friday. Of the men admitted to hospital, the symptoms showed by Madhu, 55, and Xavier, 35, were severe. The total number of suspected cases has gone up to 22.
The first victim of cholera, nine-month-old Saira, with her grandmother Kochuthresya back at home after being hospitalised, first at a private hospital and then at the Primary Health Centre (PHC) at Pulluvila. Saira’s brother Vintu and Kochuthresya had also showed symptoms of cholera such as diarrhoea and vomiting, but tests were negative. Sadly, the whole family was socially isolated in their neighbourhood at Puthiyathura.
Health workers in the affected Puthiyathura and Karinkulam panchayat maintain that it is the open defecation that is more of a threat than contaminated water. The toilets in most houses are being rebuilt to get the Nirmal certification and the public have no other option but to depend on open beaches. At the far end of the beach, you can see structures built for tourism promotion. While Sanitation Mission didn’t think the situation had anything to do with them, an army of health workers and Asha workers are out on the field, spraying bleaching powder on the roads and on the beach.
However, the Karinkulam panchayat is sprucing up the public toilet complex and work is expected to be completed in a week’s time. There are as many as 12 toilets in the complex. But the catch again is the water source. The water from the well is totally contaminated, say residents of the area.