Gorakhpur: A total of 290 children died at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in Gorakhpur in August, 213 of them in the neonatal ICU and 77 in the encephalitis ward, principal P.K. Singh said.

There have been 1,250 deaths since January this year at the hospital, especially in encephalitis, infant and children’s wards, he said.

Giving a break-up of the casualties at the hospital, Singh said 37 children have died on 27 and 28 August, of whom 26 died in the neonatal ICU (NICU) and 11 in encephalitis ward.

The toll in January was 152 (143 in NICU and nine in encephalitis ward), in February it was 122 (117 and five), in March 159 (141 and 18), in April 123 (114 and nine), May 139 (127 and 12), June 137 (125 and 12), July 128 (95 and 33).

Of all the deaths in BRD Medical College over the past three days, the highest number have been in the neonatal category. “This refers to babies between one and 28 days old," explained Dr. R.N. Singh, who has been campaigning for encephalitis awareness and eradication in Gorakhpur for a decade-and-a-half.

“There have also been deaths in the pediatric ward due to reasons as varied as pneumonia and diarrhoea. So out of the total number of deaths, only a handful can be attributed to encephalitis," he said.

Singh said the tragedy earlier in the month when over 70 children died due to complications arising from reported disruption of oxygen supply to the hospital have spurred the media to take note of every death in BRD.

“Sad as it is, deaths in neonatal wards do occur in such numbers, not just in Gorakhpur but even cities like Delhi," Singh said. He cautioned that the recent flooding in the area could lead to an increased count in September. “I am very apprehensive, water is stagnant and the flooding will not help matters."

The Union health ministry remained ambivalent in its response, stating that it was examining the matter.

“Investigation is ongoing and we will get to the bottom of this as soon as possible," said a senior Union health ministry official, requesting anonymity.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had formed a committee on 12 August, a day after the deaths of children were reported at the hospital. However, the death of seven more children at the BRD hospital on Tuesday snowballed into a political issue, with the opposition hitting out at the ruling state government.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala accused the Bharatiya Janata Party government of inaction, while others expressed dismay at the continuing loss of children’s lives.

“Sixty-one more children die in Gorakhpur. Tragic and criminal. Our children are our future. If they are not safe our future is in jeopardy," Congress leader Kapil Sibal said in a tweet.

PTI contributed to this story.

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