Sunday, 15 December 2019

Malnutrition Stalks Juang Kids in Odisha

Updated: August 12, 2016 1:17 pm

Mamata, the third daughter of Santi Pradhan of Nagada village  in the Juang tribe-dominated hillock of  Sukinda block in Jajpur district of Odisha,  is one of the malnourished children. She has  a ghastly look on her   face. Her  shriveled skin, emaciated body  and hollow eyes speak eloquently about the state of her  health. Her  eyes were sunk into her  faces. She was   monstrously thin and   clasping her mother. The fear of death still flashes across  her  face  and  she   appears  to have reconciled herself  to  her   imminent death.  Like Mamata  the  fate of many malnourished children  is hanging in balance.

” My  two -year-old son Kabula died on  June   25, 2016 after suffering from  malnutrition. Before his death, he resembled a bag of bones. We have not seen any benefits, despite government claims.  If our children fall sick we cannot do much as the nearest government hospital in Sukinda is  very far from here. Healthcare is non-existent in these areas. We drink water from the water-falls and streams,”said   Rabi Pradhan of Nagada.

 Around 34 Juang  children have already  died of  malnutrition since January   and many children are fighting death  in the villages of Nagada, Tumuri, Talanagada, Bhuisala, Gohiasala, Naliadaba, Taldiha, Ashokjhar  and other villages   under Chungudipala Gram Panchayat of  Sukinda  block. Around 250  Juang kids  living in these villages are thought to be severely malnourished as a result of the hunger crisis now unfolding in these  remote and inaccessible villages.  Many tribal villages on the hills are without proper roads and facilities like electricity, drinking water and primary health centers. “Around 4500 people live in our Gram Panchayat under miserable conditions,”  said Renuka  Deuri, Sarapanch of Chingudipala Gram Panchayat.

 “Around 34 Juang  children have already  died  since January   and many children are fighting death . There could be other deaths occurring in small hamlets and  remote villages on the hillocks which we know nothing about. If the authorities  will not provide proper food, drinking water and medicines, the  number of severely malnourished children will increase, and then they will  die. Poor health and communication infrastructure keeps the  Juang villages  disconnected from mainstream population,” added Deuri.

 It is  not known exactly  how many children have died  of malnutrition. Locals   say  around 34 children have died since January, but as per the official version 22  kids have died .

14-08-2016When contacted Rashmiprava Khatua, Public Health Extension Officer (PHEO)   of Community Health  Center (CHC) of Sukinda, said, “Since January, 22 kids have already died.   Since June to till date seven children  have died. The  Community Health Center (CHC) at Sukinda  and TATA hospital in Sukinda play a key role in the crisis by treating severely malnourished children.  Women bring their children from up to 20  km away to be treated at the  CHC at Sukinda. This Juang tribe-dominated Chugudipala Gram Panchayat’s malnutrition crisis is a chronic and debilitating problem. In addition to food aid, these families need  potable water. Juang  people collect water from potentially unsafe sources, which expose them to diarrhea, which can cause malnutrition and vice-versa.” When contacted  Debadatta Mohant, Block Development Officer of Sukinda   said, “It is not possible on the part of the authorities to  dig tube wells on the hillocks where Juang people live.  We told them many times  by organising awareness camps to drink boiled water. But they did not pay any heed to our advice.  Juang people  often  take   handia (rice beer). They prepare handia with contaminated water from the streams as a result of which they suffer from water borne diseases and other  aliments.”

Sukinda Valley contains 97 per cent of India’s chromites ore deposits and is one of the largest open cast chromites ore mines. The vast  mineral wealth of  Sukinda block  in the  district  is exploited  by the mine mafias and big companies  in a clear nexus  with the leaders of ruling parties while the  tribals live below the poverty line. “Malnutrition is the major cause of premature births as well as deaths of infants in  this area,  but no steps are taken by the health department to provide special medical care to them. The officials are blissfully ignorant about  the plight of the villagers of this poverty-stricken area and the dire conditions under which they are surviving.  The lives of these children could have been saved if the doctors and officials of the health department had taken this matter seriously and shifted these children to  the government-run hospitals  for timely treatment,” alleged Prafulla Samantray,  president of state unit of Lok  Shakti Abhajan.

Samantray  further stated  that the health department, which has utterly failed to provide medical help to the tribal people  over the years, is trying to find some excuses for its lapses. He has  also demanded the government to order a comprehensive inquiry into the death of the  tribal children in the  areas.

After the alleged malnutrition  death of many  Juang kids, the adminstration has taken note of the  sorry plight of the tribals and swung into action  by ordering  free kitchen  and medical camps in these villages.

“Obviously, the tribal  people are facing health-asrelated  problems for which we have decided to start  free kitchens and  free medical camps in these remote villages,”said S.K. Mallick the district collector of Jajpur.

by Ashis Senapati, from Jajpur

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