Infant deaths continue in Attappady

As advisor to prime minister visits the tribal block panchayat, activists demand special care for pregnant adivasi women

By M Suchitra
Published: Tuesday 16 July 2013

T K A Nair, advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will be visiting a few of the adivasi settlements in Attappady Tuesday. He will be holding discussions with officials on Wednesday on the implementation of the Rs 125 crore Central government package for Attappady.

The package was announced by Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on June 6 when he visited the block in the backdrop of the deaths of tribal infants, mainly because of the poor health status and abysmal healthcare services in the block. The Centre has set up a special task force for implementing the package.

Meanwhile, one more tribal baby died in Attappady, Kerala's lone tribal block panchayat. The one-month old baby, born to Girija and Murugan of Palooru tribal settlement, died on July 12 in Thrissur Medical College. The baby was premature and weighed just 1.16 kg. This is the fourth death in the past four weeks. With this, the death toll of tribal babies this year has risen to 33.

Activists are angered by poor response of the government as infant deaths continue. "The Central and state government had announced a slew of relief measures. But none of them has materialised," points out Rajendra Prasad, president of Thampu, an organisation working among adivasis in Kerala.

All pregnant tribal women in the block are at risk and should be given special healthcare, demand activists. There are about 600 pregnant women and 241 of them are in the sixth and seventh months of their pregnancies. "One of the reasons for the infant deaths is premature delivery. So all tribal women who have completed six months of pregnancy should be cared for," says K A Ramu, another activist. The activists have demanded a separate ward in the tribal speciality hospital for these women to control the deaths. The speciality hospital now has two gynaecologists and two paediatricians.

Activists are also angry with the officials for not holding any meeting with the non-profits working among adivasis in the block. “We are not being consulted on anything and we don’t have our representative in the task force,” says Ramu. Activists have demanded that a monitoring committee with representatives from tribal and human rights groups should be formed to evaluate the situation in Attappady and implementation of the packages declared by the state and the Central government.

During his visit to Attappady, the Union urban development minister had stated in a public meeting that the root cause of malnutrition and poor health status of the tribes in Attappady is land alienation.


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