(Photo caption: The colony of the tribals in a poor condition.)
Author: Reji Joseph
(Attappadi, Nov 28, 2016, DG): The pregnant women who are not taken in by hospitals and health departments are sometimes forced to give on the sides of the rural mud roads. If they happen to die on the roadside before reaching the hospital, their names will not be included in the official list of dead people being documented by the government.
Vally, hailing from Kavandikkallu village gave birth on the roadside last November. When the delivery pains started, she was taken in a jeep to Kottathara Tribal Hospital. But just one kilometre before the hospital, at Naikappady gravel road, Vally had to deliver herchild. After that, she returned home. The fate of Veera from Kakudumon, who delivered her child in the road very close to the Public Health Centre, Puthoor. When labour pains commenced in her 8th month of pregnancy, her friendly tribal neighbors women hurried her to the Health Centre.
They searched for a doctor in the hospital, but no doctor was not present there. Therefore, she was subsequently taken to Kottathara Hospital in a jeep before it was too late. After the delivery, both mother and child were very weak. They were discharged from the hospital on the 10th day. This child, born after a sevenyear wait, regrettably died within a month. Shedding tears, Veera is now waiting for another baby to be born to her.
There are many interior villages in Attapady where there is no access by roads or vehicles. If the labour pain of a pregnant women starts at midnight, there is no other alternative for her but to remain home for the delivery. If a midwife is available in the vicinity, she would be lucky.
If the labour pains start in the day time, the pregnant woman is laid on a stretcher made with two poles on either side with a blanket inside tied tightly to the poles and carried manually by persons to the hospital. This is the only solution possible on the occasion.
Meenakshi of Edavani village lived in deep forest area remembers her delivery day with terror even now. When birth pain became intense in her 7th month of pregnancy, her friendly neighbors carried her to Kottathara Specialty Hospital from Elavani. on a a crude stretcher made out of two forest poles with a blanket tied in between as a bed. She was taken across two hill topes and a wild stream, covered all over with thorny bushes.
Meenakshi thus reached the hospital in a weak and fatigued condition. But she did not get the necessary attention from the hospital. To be short, she did not get even a cup of drinking water in her critical pregnancy condition. When her thirst became acute, Meenakshi stepped out in search of a tea shop to drink a cup of tea, but on the way, she fell down in the middle of the road. Some local people who saw her pitiable condition, took her in an auto rickshaw to the hospital and immediately the delivery took place there.
A faint child cry alone was heard on the occasion. Those awaiting further response from the baby did not see it. The fact was that the baby had died as soon as it was born and on realizing this, Meenakshi cried in grief. Infant deaths are quite common happening in Melemully, Edavani, Melayur, Vettulucky, Kovilpatty sub villages of Attappady. When Saradha of Melenully delivered a child it died instantly. The Kottathara Hospital register states that the death of the child occurred due to the ill health of the mother.
When Rajamma of Melayur delivered a child at a private hospital at Anakkatty, the baby died within hours after delivery. At the time of the delivery, which occurred on the seventh month of her pregnancy the body weight of the child was 550 grams only. The new born baby of Pushpa, belonging to Kovilppatty village died on the second day of its birth, and weighed just 800 grams. That delivery also took place in the seventh month of pregnancy. The tribesmen collectively state that the delay in their bringing over the pregnant women to the hospital before birth pangs start is that the expectant women would be denied proper care and attention here by the doctors and nurses and according to them, this was one of the main causes of the new born babies increasingly dying.
When the gynecology wing of the Kottathara Specialty Hospital receives unhealthy and pregnant tribal women with anemic features, the doctors prefer not to attend to such individuals and to direct them to other hospitals with better facilities. This is out of fear of treating them, lest they die during childbirth , out of their weak conditions. However for the patients to reach institutions like the Trichur Medical College Hospital from Attappady, they had to travel a distance of 150 kms and to reach Kozhikodu Medical College Hospital, 170 kms has to be covered. It is a very difficult and expensive task for poor pregnant women expecting delivery, to reach Kozhikodu or Coimbatore, for which they to hire a jeep or autorickshaw utilizing borrowed money as well as travel four to five hours to reach the hospital.
Even though there are provisions to provide help and assistance to pregnant tribal women for their conveyance to hospitals, they are often forced to effect their deliveries on roadsides or in vehicles. The expense for providing iron folic tablets to pregnant women for a year is only Rs 10/. . Even then its supply has been broken for the past two years. Despite tribal volunteers, Asha volunteer helpers, Health inspectors, Public health workers, Anganwadis, Mobile medical units, Specialty hospitals, primary health centres, community health centres etc., deputed to facilitate the healthy upkeep of tribals, the child deaths occurring in Attappady have no end at all. To bring forth a child from a weak and frail tribal woman, who has no means to procure even one good meal a day, is a great fear hurdle for them.