‘No steps taken to prevent such deaths in Attappady Hills’

One more infant died at Kottathara Tribal Speciality Hospital on Thursday, taking the number of deaths owing to malnutrition in the last 16 months in the Attappady Hills in Palakkad district of Kerala to 35. The infant, weighing only 1,300 grams, was delivered during the eighth month of pregnancy. The mother was admitted in the hospital three days back with high blood pressure.The infant’s parents, Salomi and Krishnan, are from Sholayur tribal hamlet in Sholayur Grama Panchayat.

A two-and-a-half-year-old child of Sunitha and Krishnan of Paloor tribal hamlet of Pudur Grama Panchayat was in a very critical condition in the intensive care unit of Kozhikode Medical College on Friday. The child was referred by the Kottathara hospital last month. The child’s close relative, Murugan from Attappady, said the child suffered from malnutrition.

Meanwhile, protest is brewing in Attappady over the continuous deaths of children and absence of concrete steps to prevent the tragedy.

Tribal organisation Thambu has said though 35 children had died and many were undergoing treatment and one in a critical condition, no effective steps were taken to prevent such tragic deaths.

The government was only announcing special packages and holding meetings of officials. At the ground-level, no steps were taken to prevent the malnutrition deaths, said the president of Thambu, Rajendra Prasad.

He told The Hindu over the phone that there were 500 pregnant tribal women now in 192 hamlets of Attappady.

Since many of these mothers were anaemic, they should be provided with nutritious food and medical care. But no such steps were taken by the Health and the Social Welfare Department authorities. This situation would be disastrous, as many more children would be born underweight and malnourished, Mr. Prasad said.

Convener of Attappady Samrakshana Samithy M. Sukumaran criticised the ‘government’s inaction’ in providing medical and other help to tribal mothers and infants

He said the government seemed to be interested only in announcing special packages and entrusting vested interests that were responsible for rampant corruption in implementing projects in Attappady. No steps were taken to provide medical and material help to tribal mothers to save their children from death due to malnourishment.

The government was yet to take action on any official in Attapady responsible for the deaths. It had not taken action against the contractor who did not supply nutritious food items to anganwadis. No action was taken against him for supplying food items unfit for consumption, Mr. Sukumaran said. The government was also not interested in taking action against contractors and some officials who had swindled crores of rupees in implementing various projects, he said.