Maoist-affected areas of Orissa reports rise in infant mortality rate due to lack of healthcare and abject poverty.
The health sector in Nawrangpur is in shambles due to the unavailability of doctors.
An atmosphere of fear and distress prevails in these villages. Tribals, threatened by Maoists, have been forced to leave behind their homes and their sources of livelihood.
The government is concerned about the high infant mortality rate. Illiteracy has trapped the district in such a way that these poverty-stricken tribals have no access to health care facilities.
"We are daily wage labourers and we can't afford to give protein-rich food to our children. We give them food that is available to us like karadi (one kind of stems). We can't afford to give them food, which is nutritious. We are poor and our children are malnutritioned. We are poor, so our children are not very healthy. What can we do? We can't even provide them with two square meals a day," said Raghunath Jena, a local.
Moreover, the rising graph of maternal deaths, mostly expectant mothers from the tribal community has become a subject of dire concern.
The government-aided health service network has failed to live up to its expectations, as the number of deaths depicts the reality.
Deaths among infants below five years remained at nearly 90 for every 1000 children, while the maternal death rate has also surged in the last few years.
Nawrangpur holds the second position in the list of high infant mortality rates (IMR) among all districts in the state.
"Malnutrition is not that they do not have anything to eat, but they do not know how to eat and what to eat. They do not know what to eat. Due to all these factors, these regions in most vulnerable sections of society have children and mothers dying. In our region, the child death rate as well as maternal death rate is very high. This is due to illiteracy and ignorance. People are still not aware of immunisation programmes. Most of the mothers who die during delivery are anemic. Infant care is not adequate and mothers do not get adequate food or food supplements," said Surendra Nath Das, a doctor.
In addition, the scenario with regard to safe childbirth seems exceedingly bleak.
In the remote areas of the state, the situation is so deplorable that the tribals cannot afford even two square meals a day.
Though the district boasts of seven community health centers, three primary health centers for 10 blocks and 37 primary health centers, there is a shortage of doctors.
While there is a dearth of specialists at the community health centers, the District Headquarters Hospital has several vacancies, including orthopedics, pediatricians, eye specialists, dermatologists and pathologists.
Due to inordinate delay in reaching government hospitals, many pregnant women lose their lives.
"The locals here are not well-educated and are mostly illiterate. They are unaware about the right kind of food, which is why the maternal death rate is very high. So, the Maoist influence in this district has caused infant mortality rate to rise. In fact, this had happened a few years ago and had created chaos within the district, the reason behind these deaths is their lack of awareness about their diet. This is only due to illiteracy. The government imparts knowledge about the diet, but that remains limited to pen and paper," said Sushma Jain, an activist.
Several tribal women prefer to deliver babies in the comfort of their homes, instead of rushing to congested hospitals.
Anemia caused by multiple pregnancies is cited as the primary cause for maternal deaths.
Most of the pregnant women hardly receive any gynecological support for safe delivery.
The grim reality is that only 25 percent of pregnant women have access to delivery facilities, while the rest perish in the process due to utter neglect.
As a matter of fact, only about 20 percent of the pregnant women receive timely prenatal care while the hyped government- sponsored health schemes for women has failed to come to their rescue.
With government health services on the verge of a breakdown, quacks rule the roost and run a parallel health service network aggravating the situation even further.
These self -styled doctors have created havoc in the remote areas, which are bereft of any primary health service.
With little or no expertise, these quacks resort to crude and unscientific methods for childbirth and very often their treatment results in the death of the expecting mother.
Earlier, in 2004, the Jharigaon and Dongriguda villages in Nawrangpur district were in the headlines due to a large number of deaths among malnourished children.
The Maoist insurgency has gripped nearly one-third of the country, spreading into the interiors of 20 of India's 28 states.
Maoists oppose development activity like the construction of roads, provision of schools, hospitals and health care and drinking water facilities in the area. The Maoists feel that if development comes to the area, their support base will diminish substantially. There is a virtual breakdown of state-machinery in the Maoist affected region.