The Uttar Pradesh government will launch a massive immunisation campaign in 38 eastern districts of the state to protect children from the deadly encephalitis disease that has been claiming hundreds of lives annually.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will flag off the campaign in Kushinagar on Thursday.
"Yogi Adityanath first raised the issue of encephalitis in 1998 in Parliament and after becoming the chief minister of the state he is fully committed to its eradication and a massive immunisation drive will be conducted in 38 eastern UP districts between May 25 and June 11," the state's health minister Siddhartnath Singh told newspersons here.
Children up to 15 years of age will be included in this campaign, the minister said, adding that the chief minister will lauch it from a 'malin basti' (slum area) in Kushinagar, while other cabinet ministers and senior leaders will shoulder the responsibility in other districts.
The minister said the drive will cover over 88 lakh children for which the central government has provided one crore vaccines.
Though vaccines are available for Japanese Encephalitis, there is no such vaccine for checking acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) and better hygiene is the only way to ward it off, the minister said, adding that a 'swachta abhiyan' (cleanliness drive) will also be run alongside.
"The chief minister has sought help from MPs, MLAs, ministers and other people's representatives to join the campaign by issuing an appeal," Singh said.
Some 40,000 children have died of the disease in the past four decades in the region.
The minister said that about 85 per cent cases of Japanese Encephalitis and AES are reported among Dalits and minorities.
He took the opportunity to target the opposition parties by saying it would have been better if those shedding tears over Saharanpur caste clashes had got themselves associated with this campaign, a reference to BSP supremo Mayawati who visited the spot on Tuesday.
He said the state goverment has taken the Saharanpur incident very seriously and sent four senior officials with the instructions to return only after normalcy is restored.
The chief minister has made an appeal to the people to maintain peace and has also sought cooperation from opposition parties, he added.