Nearly one in every three woman suffered from acute pneumonia, which doctors pointed out could be linked to lack of shelter facility during winter months.

NEW DELHI: An analysis of postmortems conducted at AIIMS on unclaimed bodies of women from 2006 to 2012 has revealed that most of bodies had low Body Mass Index (BMI), indicating malnutrition along with superimposed diseases.

Nearly one in every three woman suffered from acute pneumonia, which doctors pointed out could be linked to lack of shelter facility during winter months.

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“Self-neglect, poor personal hygiene and lack of access to medical facilities may further exacerbate the morbidity and mortality due to pneumonia,” stated the study published by AIIMS in the latest issue of National Medical Journal of India (NMJI).

It added that accidents were the second most common cause of death. Most women suffered haemorrhagic shock and/or severe head injury in road traffic accident leading to their death. “One explanation for road accident deaths could be that most homeless people sleep near roads and hence they are prone to accidents,” Dr Chittaranjan Behera, the lead author told TOI. He added that homicidal and suicidal causes accounted for 11% and 8% of all deaths, respectively.

“Most homeless women are vulnerable to physical as well as sexual abuse, which makes them more prone to homicides,” the doctor said, adding they came across a 25-year-old pregnant woman who had been strangulated and left to die.

The doctors, in their report on unclaimed bodies of women published in NMJI, advocated for increased sensitivity to be shown towards the vulnerable section of society, apart from creating safe shelter homes.

“Mental distress caused by extreme poverty and physical and/or sexual abuse may account for most instances of suicide,” the journal said.

Activists said that while the number of night shelters for homeless has gone up, safety and security of women living there needs further improvement. “There were few toilets. In some cases, the shelters meant for men and women lay adjacent to each other,” said an activist. He added that recently Delhi government has come up with plans to open mohalla clinics near the night shelters so that the habitants can seek medical care.

According to a 2010 survey, the NMJI study said that nearly 56,000 people are estimated to be homeless in Delhi. Women constitute a minor proportion of the homeless but represent a more vulnerable and often neglected section.

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