Nutrition for tribals stuck in Odisha government slow lane
Published: 21st July 2016 06:32 AM | Last Updated: 21st July 2016 06:41 AM | A+A A-
BHUBANESWAR: The shocking spate of deaths among Juang infants in mineral-rich Jajpur’s Nagada has exposed the slow progress achieved by the State in ensuring appropriate nutrition for its tribal populace which is reflected in the level of stunting, wasting and weight among children. Over the last 10 years, there has been tardy progress as shown by the Rapid Survey on Children (RSoC) 2013-14. The RSoC, released late last year, is the first such dataset which was available after the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-III (2005-06).
Lunimatia, the Nagada of Kendrapara
It revealed that stunting among the Scheduled Tribe (ST) children (in the age group of zero to five years) is now at 46.1 per cent level whereas severe stunting is 22.1 per cent, both considered very high. The NFHS-III had recorded stunting and severe stunting at 57.2 per cent and 28.4 per cent respectively. Similarly, wasting levels have also shown a slow decline - from 27.6 per cent in 2005-06 to 22 per cent in 2013-14. Severe wasting among children has marginally dropped from 8.2 per cent to 5.8 per cent in the last 10 years.
The underweight status among tribal children remains high despite a bountifulof schemes - both Central and State - targeted at the indigenous population. The RSoC shows that 46.8 per cent ST children are underweight while 17 per cent are severely underweight. In NFHS-III, it was 54.4 per cent and 22.9 per cent respectively. With the issue grabbing headlines, the Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) on Wednesday asked the Chief Secretary to submit a report on the matter within three weeks.
Hearing a petition filed by advocate Nishikanta Mishra, the Commission considered the enormity of the problem faced by residents of Nagada. To mitigate their woes on a war-footing, the OHRC felt it imperative to provide immediate medical attention by deputing a dedicated medical team to the village. Besides, safe drinking water, free ration and essential medicines should be provided to the villagers on a regular basis. Opening of anganwadi centres for benefit of tribal children is of paramount importance, it observed. The petitioner had alleged that death of 19 infants from Juang tribe in Nagada has exposed the Government’s apathy to the problems of the indigenous population. While malnutrition is primarily responsible for loss of lives, welfare schemes, which are in implementation for targeted groups in the State, have not covered Nagada so far, he added. The inaccessible nature of the terrain has been a main hindrance for villagers to avail medical services and have access to other benefits, the petitioner added. The rights panel asked the Chief Secretary to look into the matter and submit an action taken report within three weeks.