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Poverty Claims Valuable Lives Of Children In Orissa

en's self-help groups.

It is implemented in 14 districts - Rayagada, Malkangiri, Nuapada, Navrangpur, Kalahandi, Koraput, Sundergarh, Keonjhar, Kandhamal, Bolangir, Boudh, Gajapati, Deogarh and Sonepur - where infant morality rates are above the state average.

The government target is to reduce infant mortality to 60 per 1,000 live births by 2007.

But despite initiatives by the government, the cases of Suni, Subarna and Samali show the ground reality as being different.

The Juang, one of the primitive tribes of Orissa, dominate the interior tribal pockets of Keonhjar district.

A survey says that during the last five-year period, the population growth rate among the Juangs has been very low due to high infant mortality rate - it is a shocking 510 per 1,000 live births.

The Juangs (about 25,000) in the district live below in dire poverty. Lack of basic infrastructure makes existing healthcare services inaccessible to many.

As a result, out of 22,958 newborn, 2,276 weighed less than 2.5 kg. "Even if the child is healthy, not enough emphasis is given to growth promotion," said Dharitri Rout of WOSCA, a voluntary group.

Malaria is another major contributor to infant mortality. Over 60 percent of all malaria deaths in India are from Orissa. Keonjhar contributes 48 percent.

Although the government-sponsored groups and NGOs have generated awareness, the impact is limited.

"As far as the health scenario among the tribal population is concerned, high rate of illiteracy, inaccessibility and lack of quality services contribute to the high infant mortality," says Tom Olsen, the UNICEF state representative.

"The policies are good but there are lapses during implementation. Greater awareness along with adequate infrastructure could bring better results," he says.

--IANS
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