Poor connectivity, viral fevers haunt tribal villages

Government staffer Krishna from Vetukuru, six km from the Maredumilli mandal headquarters in East Godavari district, had to spend over ₹15,000 to save his son who was suffering from malaria recently. He was forced to rush to Rajamahendravaram to avail treatment for his son in a private hospital when the local PHC (Primary Health Care) centre at Maredumilli confirmed malaria four days after collecting the blood samples.

"From the basic blood tests to timely treatment to right medicines, it’s still a struggle here. Availability of doctors is another major issue. My son’s blood test result came on Saturday and I could not take a chance with government hospital around and got him admitted to a private hospital. Non-availability of doctors is common here, especially during weekends," said Mr. Krishna.

2 health workers for 24 villages

While Mr. Krishna could afford treatment in a private hospital some 50 km away, there are less fortunate people surviving snake bites, viral fevers and other ailments in the Agency areas of Maredumilli and Rampachodavaram. Most areas suffer from poor connectivity in terms of roads and communication. Paucity of government health workers — Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) and Multipurpose Health Assistants — is another major hurdle in tackling health issues in the region.

Ratnabai, a 35-year-old ANM from Boduluru, says there are just two health workers serving about 24 villages in the region.

6 km for mobile signal

For many areas in the region, bus connectivity exists only twice a day and autorickshaws fill the gap during the day. But when it rains, most of the roads turn marshy, which means no transport facility to many tribal villages. Besides, telephone communication is still a far cry for many people in the region.

"We need more staff to meet the requirements. We conduct health camps and provide medicines, basic treatment and information. Managing the work with the limited resources is a challenging task. In addition, we have to travel six km to make any emergency call, as we do not have mobile signal here in Boduluru," says Ms. Ratnabai.

Exactly two years ago, 16 people succumbed to fevers, vomiting, etc., in the adivasi village Chaparai, a satellite village 72 km away from Rampachodavaram PHC. While there were reports about outbreak of malaria in Chaparai, trhe government attributed the deaths to contaminated food and water. It took a couple of weeks for the government to get the information on deaths.

At present, a dead telephone stares at the communication centre. It was installed at Chaparai soon after the incident and it stopped working a day after district officials had a conference with higher ups, according to villagers.

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