JAIPUR: AT least 19 children of Juang tribe have died of malnutrition in the last four months at Nagada and its adjoining Guhiasal villages in Jajpur district. More than 40 children, all in the age group of 0 to 5, have developed blister-like rashes on their bodies and their condition is no better.
On Monday, five-year-old Sania Pradhan, son of Kaintha Pradhan of Guhiasal village, died in a hospital at Kaliapani. Nine seriously affected children are undergoing treatment in the hospital run by a private steel company at Kaliapani.
While there is no official confirmation regarding reason behind the deaths, the visit of State Health Secretary Arti Ahuja about two days back to take stock speaks about the gravity of the situation.
After the State official’s visit, district administration swung into action and Collector Satya Kumar Mallick, along with a team of officials, visited the village on Thursday. The Collector held discussion with senior health officials regarding the health condition of the children. Free kitchens have been opened and health camps are being conducted to check malnutrition, the Collector said.
Nagada is situated on the hilltop in a dense forest under mineral-rich Sukinda block. Located about 30 km from Sukinda Chromites valley and more than 50 km from Kalinga Nagar Industrial complex, there is virtually no road to the village.
For even basic necessities, the villagers have to trek more than 15 km through a dense forest to reach a motorable road.
The inaccessible village, inhabited by 420 people, including 127 children, belonging to 100 families, has no health sub-centre or fair price shop and school is only a dream for them. Technically, the villagers are not covered under any government benefits.
The nearest government hospital is at Kuika, 28 km from the village. Besides, health workers have never visited the village to conduct health check-ups and administer vaccines, alleged villagers. “No health worker has visited our village in the recent years,” said Tapan Pradhan of Nagada, adding “no MP or MLA or administrative official has ever set foot in our village.”
The ‘particularly vulnerable’ tribe continues to languish due to lack of government attention. Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) Dr Phanindra Panigrahi said, “The village is situated on the hilltop and there is no road as a result of which we are unable to reach the spot”.
Meanwhile, the Health Secretary said, “I visited the affected village two days back and interacted with the families of children who died. The reasons behind deaths are under investigation and we have taken all measures to prevent more deaths.” Plans are on the anvil to set up a rehabilitation health camp in the village to provide better treatment, she added.
A three-member team of Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC), Bhubaneswar has left for Jajpur to visit hilltop Nagada village where 15 Juang kids are suspected to have died of malnutrition between March and June this year. They will collect blood samples from other kids for tests to ascertain whether they are malnourished. The team will also submit a report to the Government along with the blood test reports.