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COVID-19 infection spreads to vulnerable tribal community in Odisha

Health officials are seen at a community health centre as they sanitize the place for COVID-19 testing in Bhubaneswar on August 20, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

Five persons of Didayi, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) in Odisha’s Malkangiri district have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus as the pandemic continues to make advance into tribal heartlands.

“We have received information about five persons belonging to the Didayi community in Oringi village testing positive for COVID-19. Now, steps are being taken to prevent further spread of the contagion,” said Hruday Ranjan Sahoo, in charge of Didayi Development Agency, on Tuesday.

This came close on the heels of the detection of a coronavirus positive case in the Bonda community, another PVTG in Malkangiri district.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI) gives the population of Didayis, who live in the Konda Kamberu hills of Malkangiri, as 7,250 according to the 2011 Census.

“They are dependent mainly on shifting cultivation in the hills, and wetland cultivation of paddy in the plains. The Didayi also collect minor forest product like fruits, roots and mushrooms to supplement their diet,” according to the State’s premier tribal research institute. Also, horticulture and kitchen gardening have recently caught the interest of the community and they grow seasonal vegetables, banana, papaya, tobacco, mango, jackfruit and tamarind.

According to office of the Malkangiri District Collector, seven persons tested positive for COVID-19 in Oringi, a Didayi inhabited village, following a household survey. Of them, two are not members of the Didayi community.

Odisha is home to 62 tribal communities — the largest diverse groups of tribal population in India. Thirteen of them are PVTGs. All blocks where PVTGs live have reported COVID-19 cases.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has already reached the remotest corner of the tribal heartland, administrations have found themselves in spot of bother in preventing aboriginal groups from being affected.

The traditional weekly tribal markets have been closed in order to cut down mingling of tribals with outsiders. At some places, the administration is trying to make essential commodities available at doorsteps.

The tribal dominated districts of Malkangiri, Rayagada and Sundargarh on Wednesday reported more than 100 COVID-19 positive cases each. Koraput and Mayurbhanj, two other prominent tribal populated districts, had above 90 cases each.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 11:28:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/covid-19-infection-spreads-to-vulnerable-tribal-community-in-odisha/article32447410.ece

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