news Monday, January 05, 2015 - 05:30
Haritha John| The News Minute| November 5, 2014| 2.00 pm IST Twenty seven year old Maruthi gave birth to twins in March 2013 at her home in Kottamala settlement of Attappady. One infant was still born, while the other died after just three days. Maruthi, gave birth to the twins when she was just seven months pregnant. Velan her husband could not take her to the hospital since their hamlet is in a remote area. And they could not afford the transportation charges. Over the past few years a crisis has come to light in the Attappady region of Kerala where scores of children have died due to malnutrition. Maruthi, like many other women in tribal families belonging to the Kurumba, Irula and Muduga communities was aneamic, her condition worsened by lack of nutritious food. Thirty-five children including newborn babies died in Attappady during 2012-13 due to malnutrition and other reasons, doctors working in the region say that is a conservative estimate. A tribal family in Attapady, photo courtesy Aron Menezes This year, 15 deaths have been reported, three deaths this Monday. The recurrence of infant deaths in spite of the centre and state governments announcing many schemes is shocking. “As per government reports only 35 died here last year, but the actual number is 73. The tribal hamlets lack proper attention from the government. Though authorities visit regularly, there are no significant developments and the adopted measures did not put an end to the recurring deaths. The primary health centers and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) lack even the basic facilities.,” says Rajendra Prasad, president of Thambu, a Project by Child Rights and You (CRY) According to ‘Right to Food India campaign’ study, 90% of adivasi (tribal) women in Attappady are anemic or underweight and the average birth weight of children is about 1.6 kgs. A team of experts from the National Institute of Nutrition (2013) reported that the infant mortality rate (IMR) in Attappady was 66 deaths per 1000 live births while in the rest of the state the number was at 15. Though central and state governments have initiated many relief packages for inhabitants here, child deaths remain a major concern. In 2013, state government introduced a ‘mother-child tracking’ system, but it is passive as per activists working on the ground. “They can afford only the rice available at ration shops for Rs.1 per kg. That should be changed; they should have the provisions to do farming. Anganvadis should provide nutritious food to the kids. The present critical situation demands a massive supply of nutritious food items in all the tribal hamlets for a long period,” Rajendra Prasad added. The National Rural Heath Mission (NRHM) released a survey earlier this year that said out of 4,800 children, 572 children below the age of five remain malnourished in the tribal belt, of which 127 were in extremely serious condition. Though the recent spate in deaths has shocked people, some doctors believe there is no reason to panic. “Substantial measures are being taken by the health department to control the child deaths in the region. As a result this year there is a decrease in the infant mortality rate compared to last year,” says Dr Jagadeesh, Department of Health Service. “Malnutrition amongst tribal woman is a major reason behind these deaths,” he added.

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