IT IS beyond debate that children are generally vulnerable to deaths caused by different types of infections which still remain a grave concern although the number of such deaths has decreased significantly in recent times. But when child deaths, that too more than a dozen at one go, occur due to callousness on the part of the adults, it becomes all the more difficult to accept, which is why the recent death of 14 children aged between two and six years in Dinajpur reportedly falling victim to pesticide poisoning from litchis is so painful.
According to a report front-paged in New Age on Wednesday, fifteen children got admitted to Dinajpur Medical College Hospital unconscious with complaints of high temperature and convulsion in June 1-12. Among them, 13 died soon after their admission while another one died Monday night. As the director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research told New Age, by examining the history of the children they had confirmed that the ill-fated children ate, or came in contact with, litchis after the growers had sprayed pesticides on them. For further confirmation, however, in particular, of the type of the fatal pesticide, they need to have the results of laboratory tests on the victims’ blood and urine samples collected while they were alive. What is more unfortunate, as the IEDCR director admitted, only one of all the tests required to this end can be run in the country which prompted them to send the samples to laboratories overseas like the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for tests. It not only keeps the poor victims families waiting in the event they seek to have any redress, not to mention the owners of the litchi orchards concerned face trial for reckless use of pesticide, but also points to the general indifference of the ruling quarters towards ensuring at least appropriate—both in number and quality—laboratory testing facilities in the country.
It may be worthy to note that, in the absence of proper guidelines about the use of pesticide, coupled with lack of awareness of its adverse impact on human body and environment, application of poisonous chemicals has become rampant across for which a number of fatal incidents like the one at hand reportedly occur almost every year. Similar incidents of pesticide poisoning from fruit took place in Naogaon in 2008 and at Dhamrai in Dhaka in 2009.
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