Death continues to stalk tribal infants at Attappady. After a gap of 10 days, one more tribal infant died of alleged malnutrition, taking the toll to 33 since January this year.
On July 2, baby of Omana and Murugan, Mele Anavai, Pudur grama panchayat, died at the Kozhikode medical college hospital. Omana delivered of her third child at the Mannarkkad taluk hospital on June 28 in a Caesarean section. Since the infant developed some complications, doctors at the taluk hospital referred it to the medical college hospital. Though the baby underwent a surgery there, it did not survive.
Once the deaths of so many infants in so short a period drew national attention, there was a hue and cry among the public for a qualitative improvement in the socio-economic and health status of the tribes at Attappady. Soon, the official machinery stepped in. Though various special packages have been announced for Attappady, by both the Centre and the State government, to ameliorate the situation, death of tribal infants at Attappady at regular intervals (since then) shows that nothing much has changed on the ground.
There is no dearth of health centres at Attappady. But they lack specialised care. The tribal land has 32 health centres, the Government Tribal Specialty Hospital at Kottathara, one community health centre, three primary health centres, 28 sub-centres, and three mobile medical units under the Health Department. Besides, there are two outpatient clinics under the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) and 85 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
The 52-bed Kottathara hospital does not have specialised doctors and an operation theatre to handle serious cases. The hospital often refers patients to the medical colleges in Thrissur, Kozhikode, and Coimbatore, says K.A. Ramu, a tribal activist.
Referring patients in serious conditions to medical colleges as far as 50 km to 80 km itself is a major cause of death, he says.
There is demand for providing specialised treatment at the Kottathara hospital itself. Incubation facility for premature infants is a must there, say medical staff at the Kottathara hospital.
Rajendra Prasad, president of Thampu, a tribal organisation, says “the government announced ‘empty packages’ to cheat the tribal people. They are not sincere in implementing them.’’
“Our demand to at least boil the muddy rainwater from the river before supplying to the hospital has fallen on deaf ears. We also demanded that at least bottled drinking water be supplied to the patients till a water treatment plant is installed,’’ Mr. Prasad says.