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Life changing for better for fluorosis-hit
Ajit Patowary

Furhan with knocked knees in 2012 and (right) in 2015.
 GUWAHATI, May 29 – It is good news. Fluorosis in a number of children is being cured by a group of social activists with the use of safe drinking water and low-cost micronutrients, spending only around Rs 2 per head per day, in a remote area of the State. Significantly, Government healthcare facilities have remained mostly inaccessible for these people.

Around 2000 miserable people of this area, called Tapatjuri in Nagaon district, are the victims of fluorosis and of them, around 400 are children. They became victim of this dreaded disease following protracted consumption of the groundwater supplied by the State’s Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), which contained excessive amount of fluorides.

The fluorosed people of Tapatjuri live in three villages – Tapatjuri, Nizparakhowa and Dikharumukh. But due to the intervention of a group of social workers led by Dharani Saikia, with the active support of former PHED Chief Engineer AB Paul, present officials of the State PHED and renowned neurosurgeon Dr Raja Reddy of the Hyderabad Apollo Hospital, the two NGOs – Gujarat Anand-based INREM Foundation and Bangalore-based Arghyam, things started undergoing a change for the better in Tapatjuri.

It needs mention here that the volunteers of the INREM Foundation worked among the fluorosed people of Jabua, Madhya Pradesh for about two years and found that fluorosis among the children could be cured by regularly supplying them safe drinking water and easily available low-cost micronutrients. They cured several of the Jabua children of skeletal fluorosis. Their method was also successful in arresting the progress of skeletal fluorosis among the aged people there.

The State PHED has now started a new gravity water supply scheme from a fluoride-free spring.

About two years back, the social activists led by Dharani Saikia started regular counselling of the parents of fluorosed children. With the availability of small quantity of micronutrients prescribed by Dr Raja Reddy from INREM Foundation, 20 such children are being taken care of for the last four months by Saikia, Paul and some INREM volunteers. The local officials of the State Health Department, provided these people support by extending X-ray facility.

Following the counselling from these activists and under their supervision, the parents of Md Farhan Ahmed, now little over eight-year-old, who was suffering from skeletal fluorosis (knocked knee), allowed the volunteers to feed their son with the micronutrients and started use of safe drinking water supplied by the PHED, for the past two years.

The fluorosed child is now cured from skeletal fluorosis and its associated joint pains, enabling him to run and play. Other children under treatment, are too showing improvement like reduction of joint pain, stomach ache and are found to be comfortable in their gait.

Teachers from the local Government-run primary school too reported improvement of health condition of their fluorosed children. It is expected that with continued treatment and regular supply of safe water, all the 20 children will be cured and will thus be able to lead normal life, said Paul while talking to this correspondent.

Paul also maintained that food like milk, amla (goose berry), carrot, ginger, moringa leafs and beans, sesame, jaggery etc. are important to cure the fluorosed children. The mid-day meal for such affected children should be fortified with essential vitamins. However, continued supply of safe drinking water is an inexorable condition for fighting this menace, he said.

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