Parents’ anger grows over child death toll at Indian hospital

More than 100 children have died in the past month in Kota’s JK Lon government hospital in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Parents’ anger grows over child death toll at Indian hospital

  • Lack of staff, equipment and overcrowding are the reasons many children die

KOTA, Rajasthan: Parvati has been lying on her hospital bed for two days, unaware that her newborn baby girl has died. The child was born prematurely and failed to survive, a victim of the medical facility’s poor hygiene, lack of staff and inadequate facilities.

More than 100 children have died in the past month in Kota’s JK Lon government hospital in the western Indian state of Rajasthan.

“We were referred to the district hospital by our village hospital because of complications in the pregnancy. Doctors managed to deliver the baby, but could not save her life,” said Devraj, Parvati’s husband.

“Lack of staff, equipment and overcrowding are the reasons many children die. Had there been proper heating inside the hospital, and adequate hygiene and infrastructure, my child would have survived,” he told tells Arab News.

“I am a daily-wage earner and I don’t have the resources to take my wife to a private hospital. The government hospital is our only hope.”

Sagar Singh from Baran village, also in Kota, lost his 23-month-old son after an oxygen unit at the hospital malfunctioned.

“I was hoping to celebrate my son’s second birthday on Jan. 15, but the doctor’s negligence and lack of proper hospital care snatched away our happiness,” he said.

With so many deaths at the maternity hospital, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has demanded the resignation of the state’s chief minister, Ashok Gehlot, who belongs to the opposition Congress Party.

India’s Human Rights Commission has expressed shock at the deaths and asked the state government to explain the high mortality rate.

According to Dr. Rajesh Khanna, of the India office of Save the Children, the problem results from a “systematic failure” of the country’s health-care system.

“Blaming the doctor or hospital administration is useless. Unless the system recognizes that every child is precious, nothing is going to work,” he said.

“It is not that children are dying in Kota only. There are other cities in India where similar tragedies have taken place. Primary health care is also not functioning at the local level. As a result, when a case is referred to the district hospital in Kota, the patient is already at a critical stage, and due to limited capacity in the hospital he cannot be saved,” Khanna said.

Afghan govt. vows to probe civilian deaths in Kunduz airstrike

Updated 20 September 2020

Afghan govt. vows to probe civilian deaths in Kunduz airstrike

  • There have been conflicting reports from lawmakers and residents about number of fatalities
  • Taliban says none of its fighters killed in attack

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry pledged on Sunday to probe “allegations” of at least 12 civilians being killed in an airstrike targeting Taliban fighters in the northern Kunduz province a day earlier.
The pledge followed inconsistencies about the number of casualties, with the insurgent group saying that none of its men had died in the attack.
“The Taliban were the target, and 30 of them were killed. Initial reports indicate no harm was inflicted upon civilians, but we are probing reports by locals about civilian casualties. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces take allegations of civilian harm seriously, and these claims will be investigated,” Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the defense ministry in Kabul, told Arab News.
He added that the ministry would “share any details” about civilian casualties “once the probe is over.”
If confirmed, Saturday’s airstrike in the Khan Abad district, which lies nearly 350 km from Kabul and is mostly controlled by the Taliban, will be the latest in a series of air raids killing civilians in several parts of the country.
It follows a week after crucial intra-Afghan talks between the government and Taliban officials began in Doha, Qatar on Saturday, to end the protracted war and plan a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan.
There were conflicting accounts from civilians and lawmakers in the area about the incident, with two provincial council members, Ghulam Rabbani Rabbani and Sayed Yusuf, saying that at least 12 civilians had died in Saturday’s air raid.
“Since the area is under Taliban’s control, we have not been able to find out exactly how the civilians were killed,” Rabbani told Arab News.
Meanwhile, Nilofar Jalali, a legislator from Kunduz, offered another version of the attack, which she said “hit a residential area before sunrise when people were still in their bed.”
“Children and women are among the dead, and 18 civilians have also been wounded. I informed the defense minister about it; he said he will check and get back to me, but has not,” she told Arab News. However, Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied the reports in a statement on Sunday, saying that “no fighter of the group was killed,” before placing the number of civilian deaths at 23.
Kunduz and other parts of the country have witnessed an escalation in attacks by both the government and the Taliban in recent weeks, despite their negotiators participating in the Qatar talks which are part of a US-facilitated process following 19 years of conflict in the country — Washington’s longest war in history.
The Qatar discussions are based on a historic accord signed between Washington and the Taliban in February this year which, among other things, paves the way for the complete withdrawal of US-led troops from the country by next spring, in return for a pledge from the Taliban not to allow use Afghanistan to harm any country’s, including US, interests.
Kabul’s negotiators in Qatar are pushing the Taliban to declare a cease-fire, while the Taliban say it can be included in the agenda and that both sides must first ascertain “the real cause” of the war.
Some analysts believe that while delegates of the parties are struggling to agree over the mechanism and agenda of the talks in Qatar, their fighters in Afghanistan are “focusing on military tactics to capture grounds” so that they can use it as a “bargaining chip” at the negotiation table.
“Both sides think that if they have more territory then they can argue their case from a position of strength during the talks and use it as leverage,” Shafiq Haqpal, an analyst and a former university teacher, told Arab News.
“The sides have not yet agreed on the mechanism of the talks despite the Qatar talks, which began on the 12th of September. So, this is an indication that things are not going the right way politically, and both sides are trying their luck on the battlefield here.”