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Tribals in the Brink of Extinction due to Malnutrition and Diseases

In Kumbaribill, a neglected village nestled near the Similipal wildlife sanctuary in Orissa's Mayurbhanj district, deaths due to malnutrition and diseases are// frequent.

"We are dying of government apathy," lamented a villager. "We are poor and helpless because we are locked inside the forests." If the administration and medical system don't start delivering, the tribals here may well be wiped out, according to Grassroots Features.

"Located inside the buffer zone of the wildlife sanctuary, the village has no roads," complained Kumara Singh, a local social activist. "During the rains, the village remains cut off from the outside world for over four months."

The village is so remote and backward that even when seriously ill, villagers prefer witchcraft as it takes them two days to reach the Jashipur hospital.

The main diet through the year is rice and salt with occasional intakes of leafy vegetables and seasonal mushrooms. To buy salt, the villagers have to walk 27 km to the Jashipur weekly market.

When Dasma Hembram, three, died of measles in June, it raised the hackles of a social worker in the district. With the local media's aid, he publicised the deaths of 13 children here between June and October.

An independent working group on protected areas, formed with NGO members and activists, found that the villagers suffered from several diseases. Malnutrition was rife among women and children and there was virtually no development.

The group also found that anganwadi (rural welfare) workers visit here only once or twice a year. The village has a school without teacher and a tube-well without water.

On discovering the lack of basic facilities and livelihood means, the group said: "The immunisation programmes are not being carried out by the anganwadi workers."

Admitting that some children have died, Mayurbhanj additional district medical officer N. Rout blam
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