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Children lost in Uttarakhand floods, women hope to conceive again (Feature)

by fwire  Sep 8, 2013 20:00 IST

Dehradun, Sep 8 (IANS) Jamuna Devi lost her two children in the flash floods that ravaged Uttarakhand in mid-June. Still struggling to come to terms with the tragedy, the 27-year-old has now decided to go for reverse family planning surgery to be able to conceive again and restart her family.

Several women like her in villages around the tragedy-struck Kedarnath Valley are approaching doctors here for consultation to explore the possibility of a having a child again.

"I had two sons aged 5 and 7 years. They were playing with their friends when the tragedy struck. We found their bodies under the rubble of a building a week later. I was totally shattered and was unconscious for several days," Jamuna Devi told IANS.

As she had undergone sterlization after her younger son was born, her family was not sure whether she will be able to conceive again.

It was this question whether the sterlisation process could be reversed again that brought them to a gynaecologist here. The doctor has assured them that the surgery is possible in her case, bringing a ray of hope into their dark lives.

"I have consulted two-three doctors and they have assured me that there are chances that I can conceive again. I will never be able to forget my sons as long as I am alive, but I also have to look at the future and take my family forward," she said in a quivering voice.

But for Prema Devi, 40, who lost her three sons in the disaster, her request for reverse family planning surgery was turned down by a doctor, leaving her totally shattered.

"She (doctor) told me after I underwent some medical tests that it would be difficult for me to conceive. When I insisted, I was told it could be risky for my health," Prema Devi told IANS.

Undeterred, Prema has now decided to consult another doctor.

In Uttarakhand, female sterilization - in which the fallopian tube is clipped to prevent conception - is the most widely used family planning method and considered to be one of the most effective. Female sterilization is one of the options available to couples who have decided to end conception.

According to NGOs working in flood-ravaged Kedarnath, many families who have lost their children are coming forward to take steps to restart their family again.

"We get queries from so many families about possible options to have children again. Some of them have even come down to Dehradun to meet doctors," said A.K. Sharma, a member of the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK), an NGO that works on issues related to human rights and child labour.

The NGO has also been working in areas surrounding Kedarnath since the June 14-17 disaster. Incessant rains triggered landslides, killing hundreds in the state, mostly pilgrims. While hundreds have been rendered homeless, an equal number of people are still missing in the state.

Sharma said the NGO is also counselling families to adopt orphaned children. But there are not many takers, he said.

Shaila Rani Rawat, a Congress legislator from the Kedarnath Valley, said she has been getting many queries from women regarding reversing the family planning procedure during her visit to the villages.

"Girls are married off at an early age in hills and they become mothers when they are just teenagers. There are many young women who have lost their children in this tragedy. They have been discussing with me the possibilities of reverse family planning surgery so that they can have children again," Rawat told IANS.

Rawat said she has come to know that many women have come to visit doctors and counsellors in Dehradun to get their opinion.

In some cases, village heads have accompanied these families so that they are not misguided by quacks.

"I have taken six such families to Dehradun for medical consultation. Two of them are still there while the rest were turned down owing to various reasons. I took them as I don't want them to be cheated by quacks," Surender Singh, head of a village in Kalimatt en route to Kedarnath, told IANS.

He, however, was more concerned about young women who have lost their husbands.

"There are a few women of 18-19 years, who had been married for a few weeks or months, and have lost their husbands. In fact I had asked some doctors if there is a way these girls can conceive so that there is a ray of hope for them to live happily. I am still looking for answers. The tragedy has devastated the lives of many," said Surender Singh, referring to sperm banks.

(Richa Sharma can be contacted at richa.s@ians.in)