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Poverty Claims Valuable Lives Of Children In Orissa

The infant mortality rate in Orissa would continue to soar if steps are not taken to improve the poverty level. Suni Naik’s family is still trying to recover after losing their third child, which died within a few hours following delivery. //

Speaking at Talchampei village in tribal-dominated Keonjhar district, Naik said: "Two of my kids died last year. They suffered from fever. I took Rs.1,000 from a moneylender to admit them to a hospital but it was too late."

The story of 16-year-old Subarna Juang of Jantari village is more or less the same.

When Subarna was expecting her first child, there was hardly enough food for her family. Subarna herself was anaemic and her child suffered from malnutrition.

With no money or time to visit a primary health centre some 15 km away, Subarna lost her child in the seventh month of pregnancy.

Twenty-year-old Samali Juang, the only woman educated up to the seventh standard in Hatisila village, was more fortunate. Although her third child survived, the boy suffers from malnutrition.

"What can I do? We are poor, only getting 10 days' wages in a month. I am still trying to provide him a good diet. I have lost two children. I won't let my third child die," she says miserably.

An Orissa official admits there are lots of problems.

"Of the total infant deaths, 60 percent occur within the first month and the remaining in the next 11 months," says R.N. Senapati, secretary, women and child development.

"The latter has to be brought down because it's an easier nut to crack."

About 22 percent of children born in the state have low birth weight, and 53 percent below three years suffer from moderate to severe malnutrition.

Pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea are common diseases affecting infants in rural areas.

In an attempt to tackle neonatal mortality, the government launched a scheme in April 2005 involving wom
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