Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comparison of the tribal situation in Attappady with the human development indices of Somalia has brought back national attention to the tribal belt, official figures confirm infant mortality and neonatal deaths are coming down in the region. Though half a dozen infant deaths have been reported since January this year, only two are confirmed as the result of malnutrition and poor health of the mother. The area witnessed 58 malnutrition-related deaths in 2013. The figure came down to 30 in 2014 and further to 14 in 2015, as per the State Health Department. R. Prabhudas, nodal officer for tribal health in Attappady, said the multipronged approach of the Central and State governments since 2013 had brought down the infant mortality rate. The community kitchen scheme aimed at providing nutritious food to pregnant and lactating mothers, children, and the elderly had helped the cause.
“In 2013, as many as 299 tribal children in Attappady were found to have severe malnutrition. The number has reduced to 52 now. In 2013, the number of children with moderate acute malnutrition was 600. The figure is 296 now. Abortion cases came down to 34 in 2015 from 77 in 2013,” he said.Newborns’ weight
The average weight of newborn babies rose from 1.5 kg to 2.5 kg in these years. Apart from short-term measures like community kitchen and free ration, initiatives aimed at restoring alienated tribal land and helping them in farming are on.
“We are focusing more on livelihood restoration. Water is another priority,” said Seema Bhaskar of the National Rural Health Mission.