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App audio spreads lies, hits child health drive in seven districts

Times of India Mar 31, 2017, 09:54 IST TNN

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JAIPUR: Rumours have hit the immunization programme and nutrition drive in Mewat and many other districts across the state, delaying the project and creating fear and confusion among people, especially minorities.

In Churu, the medical team who went to conduct a health check-up of students in a 'madrassa' faced public ire after an audio, circulated through a mobile app, 'warned' the minority community against vaccination and 'claimed' that it was a plan to check population growth.

However, a senior health department official said the allegations were baseless. "The vaccines that we provide are safe and do not cause infertility or impotency. It prevents children from contracting various diseases," he said.

Rumours of children becoming infertile or impotent after being vaccinated or consuming deworming tablets have had a serious impact on the health drive in Mewat areas.

Places such as Churu, Sawai Madhopur, Tonk, Nagaur, Jhunjhunu and Sikar districts have also been equally affected.

In various places, government officials met religious leaders, who made announcements from mosques, and took out awareness rallies on vaccination and Albendazole tablets, used for deworming.

The health department has received reports from districts on the damage caused by the fake app audio message.

In a district school in Nagaur, a health department official warned the management that they would take the matter up with the district collector if the school does not allow them to administer deworming tablets in February.

In all districts, including Churu, Sawai Madhopur, Tonk, Nagaur, Sikar and Jhunjhunu, there's a sizable minority population.

Following these rumours, in Nagaur, reproduction and child health officer Dr Mushtaq Ahmed made an audio clip asking people not to believe in fake information spread through social media.

"The audio was affecting our immunization and deworming drives. It was ultimately affecting the health of children. I decided to record an audio and inform the people that the audio they had received earlier was completely false. I also asked people to circulate it as widely as possible to get the message across," Dr Ahmed said.

In Churu too, the rogue audio has affected the Rajkiya Bal Swasthya Karyakram. "A health department team, which had gone to conduct a check-up of students in a 'madrassa', was misbehaved with," Dr Sunil Jandu, RCHO, Churu said.

According to Jandu, the deworming campaign was affected by 5% to 7%. But people in minority areas in the city did not turn up for routine immunization in numbers due to the fake audio clip.

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