ITDP officer’s report says 2 children undergoing treatment

Four tribal children and a woman have died of malnutrition in the Attappady hills during the past month, and two children are undergoing treatment for the condition in hospitals, a report by the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) officer says.

“Malnutrition and low blood count are found to be the reasons for the deaths. A large number of tribal children are born underweight and are affected by malnutrition,” says the report sent to the State government on Friday by the officer, P.V. Radhakrishnan.

He said Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes P.K. Jayalakshmi had sought a report on the recent deaths of tribal children in Attappady.

Victims

The report gives the details of the deaths:

A two-and-a-half-year-old child of Rangamma and Shelvan, died in the Government Medical College Hospital, Thrissur, after being shifted there from the Kottathara tribal specialty hospital, where it was first admitted on March 22. The child weighed 2 kg.

In Pudur grama panchayat, a child, weighing 900 grams, of Lakshmi and Kumar died in February this year.

At Nellipathy Ooru in Agali grama panchayat, twins born to Ponnamma and Maruthan, died within a week of their birth. One of the children, weighing 650 grams, died immediately after birth and the other, weighing 1.045 kg, died a week later.

Two tribal children are undergoing treatment in the Kottathara hospital.

The report said poor health facilities and the ineffective functioning of the Health and Social Welfare departments and the government hospitals were the main reasons for the deaths.

N. Samsudheen, MLA, who on Sunday visited the families of the dead and the hospitals where the two children are undergoing treatment, said the government should take urgent steps to provide better health facilities in the tribal area. The tribal population should be given nutritious food. The matter was being taken up with the Health and the Tribal Welfare Ministers.

Poor indicators

The deaths show that the health indicators of Attappady remain poorer than those of the State and the nation. The maternal mortality rate is seven per 1,000 compared with the State figure of 1.3 and the infant mortality rate is 66 per 1,000 as against the State figure of 14.1. Fewer institutional deliveries mean poor maternal and neonatal outcomes. High incidence of severe maternal anaemia, obstetric complications, deliveries by untrained persons, all contribute heavily to this situation, a medical practitioner in Attappady said.

Anaemia, malnutrition, deficiency disorders, tuberculosis, typhoid and diarrhoea are rampant in Attappady. Many people have sickle cell anaemia, a genetic disorder, which has a devastating effect on their health and quality of life, he said.

The most disheartening part is that the tribal people with sickle cell anaemia do not get proper treatment to manage the disease, which cannot be cured. It is mostly people from the Irula tribe who get the disease. Children with the disease die in their early childhood if not treated, Prabhu Das, former medical head of the tribal specialty hospital of Attappady, said.

The report said Attappady had 28 health sub-centres. Pudur, Sholayur and Vattulukki had a primary health centre each.

The tribal area had three mobile health units. Agali had a government hospital. But the tribal people were not getting better health facilities. The 172 anganwadis in Attappady are supposed to provide nutritious food, such as milk, egg and banana, to children and women. But only wheat upma and green gram are provided.