World Bulletin/News Desk
The number of women who died after operations performed by a doctor accused of using rusty equipment at a mass sterilisation "camp" in India rose to 13 on Wednesday, highlighting the dangers of the world's largest surgical contraception programme.
The women, among more than 80 to undergo surgery, fell ill at a so-called family planning camp at a village in the central state of Chhattisgarh on Saturday. Such camps are held regularly in India as part of a long-running effort to control its booming population.
The cause of the deaths was not immediately clear, but officials said the victims showed signs of toxic shock, possibly because of dirty surgical equipment or contaminated medicines.
"Preliminary reports show that the medicines administered were spurious and also the equipment used was rusted," senior local government official Siddharth Komal Singh Pardeshi told Reuters.
The incident is an embarrassment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party rules in Chhattisgarh. He has vowed to reform India's health system. Modi expressed concern over the tragedy on Tuesday.
The doctor, R.K Gupta, had been accused of operating on more than 80 women in just a few hours with the help of two assistants in an abandoned private hospital, officials said, contravening government guidelines to limit such operations to 30 a day.
The local government on Wednesday registered with the police a case of causing death by negligence against Gupta. Local media said Gupta blamed medicine the women had been later given and denied making any mistakes. He could not immediately be reached by Reuters for comment.
A tubectomy procedure is considered major surgery but Indian doctors often exceed daily limits. Before guidelines were set there were reports doctors carried out as many as 200 surgeries a day, said Suneeta Mittal, head of gynaecology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute near New Delhi.
All the women have been hospitalised for observation and 20 are in critical condition, with many not responding to treatment, doctors said.
India carries out more female sterilisations than any other country. Sterilisation is the most popular form of birth control and the government provides cash and other incentives to encourage men and women to undergo the operation.
India's winter is known in some quarters as "sterilisation season" when the weather is cool, reducing the risk of infection, and state governments rush to meet targets before the end of the financial year in March.
A team of doctors had arrived in the district of Bilaspur from New Delhi to investigate what went wrong.
To many in India's medical establishment the surgery exemplifies an inhuman programme which relies on targets, bribes and coercion.
Workers from the Congress party, the main opposition in Chhattisgarh, one of the poorest regions in India, have called for a state-wide strike.
India was the first country in the world to introduce a policy to deliberately reduce the size of its population.
Eggs tainted by the insecticide mostly originate from farms in those two countries but have since been found in 45 nations worldwide, the European health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitisa said last week.
The UN says cholera is a major public health problem in the country with millions of cases registered every year. Last year, the disease claimed 817 lives there, according to the WHO.
The ministerial meeting will include representatives from some 30 countries, according to Canada's minister of environment and climate change, Catherine McKenna.
Cholera is endemic in Nigeria, with a rise in cases during rainy season from April to September, says disease control center
Police officers tested positive for cholera after eating infected food; health minister blames food workers
"Up to September 1, 14 deaths have been reported," the health ministry said in a statement, adding that "the total number of suspected cholera cases stands at 186."
Pharmaceutical company says treatment has more than 80 percent success rate for form of leukemia
Federal agency orders StemImmune to stop injecting vaccine into tumors of cancer patients
565,041 suspected cases of cholera have been recorded in the country since April 27
Unknown health risks include cancer, respiratory diseases, birth defects and reduced cognition
Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock's tests clear eggs, official says
Laboratory tests conducted to ascertain exact cause of deaths in north central Kogi state, health official says
Health official decries lack of funds to fight malaria, appeals for donations to help fight disease
Surge in heroin use, other opioids seen as main reason for increased deaths
A separate 40-year-old male was returned to the zoo in Rajshahi where there are only females.
Millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves across Europe and dozens of poultry farms closed since the discovery of fipronil, which can be harmful to humans, was made public on August 1.