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Why is India barely reporting heat wave deaths?

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At least 33 people died in heatwave during the 2024 General Election's last phase in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha. The people who died include polling officials.

The average heat related mortality has increased by 85% in 2013-22 as compared with 1991-2001. Excess heat can cause: 

  • Cardiac related illness
  • Lung damage
  • Kidney injury
  • Adverse pregnancy outcome 
  • Mental health impact

But often these deaths are not recorded as heat-related deaths or are not accepted by the respective governments or local bodies. 

The National Action Plan on Heat Related Illnesses, 2021 gave detailed guidelines on how to record a suspected heat-related illness death. Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released a document examining autopsy findings of those who died of heat-related illnesses. This is an attempt by the govt to standardise the approach of confirming such deaths. 

We are replaying last year's episode. In this episode, Suno India's Sneha Richhariya visited a district hospital to understand the challenges of recording a heat-related death. I spoke to Dr. Abhishek Sharma, Emergency Medical Officer at Noida district hospital and Abhiyant Tiwari, lead climate resilience and health consultant at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). 

References

India heatwave kills at least 33, including election officials - The Economic Times

National Action plan on Heat Related llnesses.pdf

AUTOPSY FINDINGS HEAT RELATED DEATHS

Cause certified in just 22.5% of deaths registered in 2020 | India News

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