Dire poverty, death stalk Agency in East Godavari

Children eating lunch at an anganwadi centre in Lododdi village in East Godavari

Rajamahendravaram: Death literally stalks the Agency of East Godavari district with infant mortality rate on the rise.  

There appears to be a close link between the closure of fund-starved nutrition centres and the spurt in infant deaths in the tribal villages. The tribal children have been denied nutritious food with the closure of the centres  and thereby prone to anaemia.

Deprivation and abject poverty are conspicuous in the remote habitations under Rajavommangi mandal. It is a daily struggle for all the Adivasi families to keep the wolf away from the door. 

Safe drinking water is out of reach and nutritious food is a distant dream. Haemoglobin levels in most of the tribal children has been found to be at six per cent as against the required levels of 12-15. 

Consumption of rice with curries is something which is a luxury in the Adivasi households. The government set up 342 nutrition centres in 11 mandals of East Godavari district, but most of them have been closed due to lack of funds. 

There are 25,351 children aged from six months to six years in Rampa Chodavaram ITDA limit, in which 20 per cent are suffering from anaemia, as per the official data.  But the unofficial accounts suggest that the number is much higher.

It is said that 20 infant deaths took place in the limits of Zaddangi primary health centre alone in Rajavommangi mandal from April 16 to December this year due to anaemia and four infants died in Urlakulapadu village alone since August.

Vanthal Rambabu, an agriculture worker from Poodedu village, has lost his one-month-old boy in October. He said he is not able to feed his family due to lack of resources and his family was forced to eat rice with mirchi and salt at least for five days in a week. 

He said that his boy died as 108 ambulance vehicle arrived very late due to lack of road connectivity when his child fell sick. Zaddangi PHC is 35 kilometre away from his village.

Vanthala Yerrabbai, upa sarpanch of the village, said that there was no cultivation of vegetables in the region and farmers depend on borewells for cultivation and bores do not function in summer. 

He said most of the people eat rice with curry for only two days, that too after weekly shandies. Murla Ganga, an anganwadi worker, said supply of Kommy Senagalau, Kure Kure and Balamritham were suspended at anganwadi centres and added that children at the centres are provided with rotten eggs for want of quality eggs.

Bhimireddy Lakshmi of Palavelthi village lost his two-and-a-half-month -old baby girl without any major symptoms. Her baby died all of a sudden and even the mother remained clueless. Polisetty Satyaveni, an anganwadi worker in Lododdi village, also lost her three-month-old girl.

The plight of Batchala Seetharatnam of Urlakulapadu village is unimaginable. She lost her two baby girls within one month time due to due to lack of road connectivity. 

She is also is suffering from severe due to lack of road connectivity.Kakuri Sridevi of the same village lost her three-month-old boy and she is going through trauma. Jatha Sri Lakshmi of the same village lost her 
boy who was born with low weight.

Rajavommangi ZPTC member, Kosuri Bujji of TDP, blamed the infant deaths on the ‘failure’ of tribals to send their children to anganwadi centres and provide them with nutritious food as per the prescription of the authorities in the Women and Child Welfare department.  

The department’s personnel attributed the alarming trend to the lack of adequate staff to cover the vulnerable areas in the Agency.