Schoolchildren vulnerable to deadly diseases, admin satisfied; Parents appeal for High Court intervention
The school buildings in flood-ravaged Srinagar are not only feared to be structurally unsafe but pose a serious risk to health of schoolchildren, who are vulnerable to deadly infections, which can even target lungs and brain. And the worst part of the story is that such infections are so stubborn that treatment may take years. Read on:
Health experts have cautioned that even after receding of waters when the buildings look apparently safe and dry, there was “highest degree of risk of infections as interiors like flooring, school furniture and even doors and windows lie infected.” On the other hand, the Roads and Building department, which is yet to issue safety certification to school buildings, at a news conference recently clarified that it would take around three months to “know the stability of structures as soil is at supersaturated level.”
THE HEALTH ALARM
Government decision to allow reopening of schools has made schoolchildren vulnerable to deadly infections, which the school buildings inherited from deluge. Though the schools including some prominent private ones, which resumed work past floods have been claiming that they washed the campus, health experts said such “symbolic washing could not get rid of infections”.
“Inundation of school buildings provided a favorable environment for various diseases to thrive, especially air borne or to say respiratory diseases,” said a group of senior medico asking not to be identified.
“Because of prevalent cold and onset of winter, classrooms will not have adequate air circulation to allow complete drying of wet walls, furniture and even doors and windows. This can provide a breeding ground for various infections especially fungal infections, which are stubborn to treatment,” they cautioned.
While the walls continue to be damp, there are issues with regard to interiors. “Primarily it’s about time. Given the cold conditions and winters ahead we can’t expect school campus to dry completely. Moreover washing of schools has to be done by specialized agencies adopting standard operation procedure, which health authorities will prescribe… Assume even if merely the doors are infected, it is enough to cause deadly infections,” said a senior medico at SK Institute of Medical Sciences Soura having over a hundred international research papers to his credit.
While the fungal growth is recurring at the flood hit schools, fungal infections are the first alarm. “Fungal infections can affect skin, nails, even lungs and brain. Once brain is affected neural disorders cannot be ruled out,” said a medico at Government Medical College. “The biggest problem with fungal infections is that they need prolonged medical treatment and even if there’s a break of day in medication, years of medication needs to be started afresh.”
Greater Kashmir is in possession of pictures of visible fungal growth even at government run flood hit schools which the Directorate of School Education Kashmir allowed to resume class work and even asked other badly damaged schools to operate from such “infected sites.”
As per the medicos, however, mere visibility of dirt or fungus is not enough to tell about the potential threat. “See this fungal or other growth which is visible needs to be microbiologically examined and can be done only when someone is infected and shows signs of abnormality… Floods may have left behind some new strains of infections including viral, which only time can prove,” he explained. “As winter is proceeding many infectious diseases are seen to spread more: Measles, and chicken pox can be on rise while schools can prove hub of such ailments.”
APPEAL TO HIGH COURT
Parent community has prayed to the High Court to intervene in the reopening of schools in Srinagar without mandatory safety certification of buildings and the alleged failure of the administration to look into the health concerns of children vulnerable to infections. “The administration particularly Directorate of School Education Kashmir has been silent over this serious issue pertaining to lives of thousands of schoolchildren.”
Keen to see the schools resume work at an earliest, allegedly to hide failures for a gloss over of devastated Srinagar, the administration has been silent on the risk to life of schoolchildren while civil society says children are being taken as cannon fodder.
For Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Rohit Kansal who prior to floods closed schools for three days, past floods schooling in Srinagar, the summer capital has never been his concern. The role of Director Education Tariq Ali Mir looks worse. He says schooling has to be priority while parents say somebody ask him if at the cost of life?
But then why are health authorities like Director Health, Dr Saleem ur Rehman, Principal Government Medical College Dr Rafiq Pampori, SKIMS Director Dr Showkat Zargar and Health Officer Dr Rubeena Shaheen silent? (To be concluded)
Cleaning by schoolchildren risky
Whereas at many flood-hit schools in the City, the schoolchildren have been lending a helping hand in cleaning process, experts have cautioned of dire consequences of such activities.
Children are risking their lives. ‘Highly contaminated flood waters have been there for around a month, it could be host of infections, including new strains, which may show immediate signs in humans or the inoculation period can be longer,” health experts said.
With administration miserably failing to act, experts have asked the parents to discourage their kids from such work.
THE POTENTIAL THREATS
Flood-hit schools pose highest degree of risk of infections as interiors
like flooring, school furniture and even doors and windows lie infected
Inundation of school buildings provided favorable environment for
various diseases to thrive, especially air borne
Because of prevalent cold and onset of winter, classrooms will not have
adequate air circulation to allow complete drying of wet walls, furniture
and even doors and windows.
This can provide a breeding ground for various infections especially fungal infections, which are stubborn to treatment
These infections can affect skin, nails, lungs and brain and can even cause neural disorders
(SOURCE HEALTH EXPERTS)