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Kalaazar sweeping through Bihar, 93 dead

Kalaazar, a deadly parasitic disease transmitted by the tiny sand fly, has affected an estimated 25,000 people, mostly poor, and claimed 93 lives// so far in Bihar. The disease has got 31 of the state's 38 districts in its grip.

Known as the poor man's disease because it affects the poorest of the poor, the disease has affected the little son of Kameshar Manjhi, a poor Dalit labourer in Patna. Manjhi is desperate to earn more money to treat his son and is working through the day and into the night.

Manjhi fears his son may die of the disease, that is characterised by fever, weight loss, swelling of the spleen and liver and leads to cardiovascular complications.

The little sand fly that transmits the disease multiplies among the cow dung that villagers use liberally to plaster their shanties or as cow dung cakes for fuel. The flies survive on the sap in banana and bamboo groves and the decomposed cow dung heaps and make their home in the straw thatches of houses.

Like Manjhi's son there are dozens of poor labourers and rickshaw pullers in Tirhut region where most of the deaths have occurred, who are afflicted with the disease.

‘We know that kalaazar affects only poor like us, but what can we do other than pray. Our income is low, not enough to afford the costly treatment for kalaazar,’ Muni Paswan, a rickshaw puller said, adding that in rural Bihar, people were offering prayers and performing rituals hoping to get rid of the disease.

Despite the state government's claims of providing treatment for kalaazar, it still remains a dream for the poor. The disease has affected mostly those from the poorest of the poor belonging to the Musahars, a Dalit community, who fall easy prey to the disease as they are forced by socio-economic compulsions to live in unhygienic conditions.

Many of those suffering with kalaazar are in Tirhut division, which comprises Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Sitamarhi, She
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