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Tribals in the Brink of Extinction due to Malnutrition and Diseases

ed the loss on tribal habits.

"People go to work leaving infants in the custody of elder children," he said. "Sometimes domestic animals share the rice bowl kept for children. This spreads several infections."

Biswajit Mohanty of the Wildlife Society of Orissa, however, said the people were simply too poor to take care of their health.

Accusing the administration of failing to provide basic healthcare, he claimed that doctors never visit the health centre at Gudugudia Gram Panchayat headquarters.

Debabrata Swain, director of the Similipal Tiger Reserve, agreed. "Whatever little healthcare is possible from our funds we provide. But the Gudugudia health centre has been of no help to the people as doctors don't visit."

"The issue here, however, is not the failure of one health centre alone," argued Sweta Mishra, a member of the working group. "It's the failure of an entire system."

Rout washed his hands off the matter: "We organised a healthcare camp for the villagers. Twenty ailing children were admitted to the hospital at Baripada, who have now returned to their homes."

Chaitanya Majhi, Orissa's tribal affairs minister who visited the area after the news of the infant deaths became public, swung the district administration into action.

Doctors were ordered to be present in a mobile health unit set up in Gudgudia to arrest the health crisis. The supervisor of the area was suspended, the anganwadi worker was given a show-cause notice, and the child development project officer's salary stopped.

These short-term measures may have temporarily alleviated the situation but leaves the larger crisis unresolved. A team of doctors found 49 villagers suffering from malaria, 35 from high fever and other ailments.

"If this is an indication of the situation in one village with just 88 households," says Mohanty, "what could be happening in all the other villag
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