More than 2 lakh children and 8000 pregnant women in Mewat, Haryana, may now not receive nutrition supplements due to a malicious rumour.   All health and immunisation programmes in the district have come to a halt following a rumour of impotency tablets and infertility injections creating a havoc among people. 

What is the nutrition drive about? What were the supplements being given to children?

 Mewat has a poor track record when it comes to health. The average hemoglobin level of children of the district is 8 as opposed to the ideal 11 and 13.  The district's infant mortality rate is also the highest at 72 deaths per 1,000 children. The national average is 39. 

 As a part of the state's nutrition drive,  de-worming pills and iron and folic acid supplements are given to children to boost their health. The nutrition drive used to be conducted in several Mewat school every Monday, says this report in The Times of India

Other immunisation programmes like Pulse Polio, Small Pox, measles, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis(DPT) etc have also been stalled. 

Source: b'Representational image |Source: Reuters\xc2\xa0'

What is the rumour about? How did it start?

It all started after a video issuing warning against birth-control measures was allegedly received by a woman in Firozpur Zirkha, who, in turn, informed her husband about it. The matter escalated and a rumour spread that the school students in Firozpur Zirkha were being given impotency tablets  and infertility injections that would make them infertile. It was seen as a move to  control the growth of Muslim population of the Muslim-dominated district. 

Following the rumour, anxious parents rushed to schools to take back their children. Fearing for their reproductive health, they refused to let their wards go to schools. Schools were forced to shut down for the day as alarmed parents refused to listen to any clarification given by the school authorities. As the rumour spread across other villages, people refused to let their children go to school, says another report in The Times of India. 

Many schools on Friday decided to shut down after they recorded low attendance on the first three days of the week.

Source: b'Representational image |Source: Reuters\xc2\xa0'

The health department suspects the role of quacks and hakims behind the rumour

 Officials allege that quacks could be involved in disrupting the drive as they have been discouraging women against government's health drives. They say that it may affect negatively affect their business if the overall health of the district improves, reports TOI

What steps are being taken to resolve the matter? 

The district's deputy commissioner has ordered a probe into the matter. Teachers and education department officials have met the Panchayat to seek their help and cooperation to stop the rumours and continue with the health programmes.

The district administration has also approached the local religious leaders for their intervention, given the Muslim majority of the district. A collective team of  of religious leaders, doctors and teachers will visit villages to educate the villagers about the benefits of the health programmes.

All health programmes have been put on halt till mid-March and will only resume once when the controversy subsides. 

(Feature image is representational | Source: PTI )