GUWAHATI – The Fluoride Knowledge and Action Network, a network of physicians, nutritional scientists and water engineers working for fluorosis mitigation in the country, has suggested steps to ensure safe drinking water supply to the people living in the fluorosis-hit pockets of the State.
The State Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) needs to be involved in ensuring safe water supply to these people, it said, following a four-day visit of the State by a team of its experts between December 9 and 13.
It also suggested formation of a separate task force for fluoride and fluorosis in Assam with the Chief Secretary or the Additional Chief Secretary of the State as its head.
It also called for steps to create a State-level testing facility for fluoride and fluorosis to enable testing of water, food, urine, blood serum samples in a single laboratory or a network of laboratories. It further suggested detection and counselling for fluorosis by the Health Department and its programmes such as the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). A referral centre for fluorosis detection needs to be set up with a nodal State-level hospital coordinating it, said the network in another suggestion.
Further, it said the nutritional dimension of fluorosis, such as calcium supplementation, adequate calorie and protein intake for women and children, needs to be taken into consideration by government programmes, such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
Better nutrition through midday meals needs to be carried out by the Education Department through schools, it said. The Public Distribution System should also take up measures that would ensure fortification of food and other nutrition, it added.
Stating that fluorosis mitigation needs convergence among many departments right from the State to the Panchayat level, it recommended constitution of a sub-committee of the water quality task force on fluorosis with representatives from Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), Health Department, the NRHM programmes, ICDS, Education Department and PDS.
Besides, a study on institutional mapping of potential stakeholders in Assam for fluorosis mitigation should be done along with a roadmap for capacity building of these stakeholders and actionable directions, said the network.