SWGH patients treated for skin ailments in Guwahati

NGO arranges travel, treatment at GMCH; Docs say diseases curable  

GUWAHATI: Forty-one patients from South West Garo Hills were diagnosed for various skin diseases at Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) here on Tuesday, with doctors claiming them to be treatable and curable.

City-based NGO, Voluntary Association for Social Upliftment (VASU) had taken the onus of these randomly selected patients after gauging the seriousness of the situation, particularly at Mahendraganj and Ampati (in the district), where it claims to have come across several hundred cases in the past few months.

“We run an apparel making centre at Mahendraganj and came to know that three girls working there have been infected since the past year. Thereafter, we came to know that many as 879 cases of skin infections were reported at the community health centre in Mahendraganj itself. We imagine the figures would be much higher as there would be unreported cases too,” Shabnam Mohan Raj, chief executive officer, VASU, told The Shillong Times here on Tuesday.

About the initiative, Shabnam said, “As an NGO, we felt we had to do something and have done what we could with our limited resources. Treatment procedures have been initiated water samples from six villages have also been sent for tests. Now it is up to the Meghalaya government to take over.”

“We had earlier approached the health department and now we will communicate the same to chief minister so that other infected people can be treated,” she said.

The NGO had borne the cost of bringing patients from South Garo Hills to the city by bus and accommodating them here. “They will be taken back to Garo Hills this evening,” she said.

Asked about his condition, Umar Faruk, 20, from a village in Mahendraganj, said, “I have dealt with it for the past two years and lived on a plain diet as meat or fish consumption only aggravates the condition. Doctors there only prescribe ointments and medicine but the itchy skin infection recurs after some days and makes life miserable.”

The story is even worse for Ram Prashad Hajong from Ampati, with his entire upper body infected. “I have lived with it for the past two years but yet to get any respite after treating the condition in Dhubri and at a private hospital here. Today, I was recommended some blood tests and asked to report after two weeks.”

From as young as three years to the late sixties, the patients comprising men, women and children were of all ages.

The case of Pranati Das (46) of Daspara village in Mahendraganj had lingered for three years with darkened patchy infections on her legs and at the back of her palms. “Life has been difficult. Worse still, many in our village have been infected. I hope my condition improves,” she said.

There is a ray of hope though even as there is no official word as to whether the infections are “endemic or have spread like an epidemic”.

When contacted about the diagnosis, doctors at GMCH said some of the skin ailments detected were allergic contact dermatitis, fungal infections, scabies, eczema and psoriasis and more or less all of them were curable.

The NGO thanked the GMCH for supporting the treatment of the affected people and providing free medicine. “Volunteers from University of Science and Technology, Meghalaya (USTM) and donors such as a Faridabad-based firm and others have also supported us in this endeavour,” the CEO said.

“Out of 41 patients, two have psoriasis while the rest of the patients mainly have scabies and tinea.The patient with  psoriasis have to take medication always. Scabies and tinea are contagious, but curable. VASU is now trying to get medicine for some patients through sponsors,” Shabnam said.

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