According to a survey conducted by a fact finding team consisting of Voice for Child Rights – Orissa (VCRO), Vasundhara, Centre for World Solidarity, Ruchika society, Human Rights Law Network and on 6th June 2007 in the Similipal Sanctury area, it was found that 29 children in the age group of 0-6 has died due to malnutrition. The survey was conducted in the three grampanchayats (GP)of the sanctuary area ie. Gudgudia (15) Barehipani(09) and Astakunar (5). These casualities has occurred from the period 01Jan 07 to 05 June 07. The medical officer and the CDPO of Jashipur block confirms these deaths. These children died due to various diseases mainly due to lack of nutrition. Severe anemic children and mothers also found in the area. Last year also 21 children died out of which 13 are due to malnutrition.
Similipal area is declared as tiger reserve and comes under protected area. Three Panchayats come under this protected area. Gudgudia Panchayat is situated 36 kms from Jashipur. Barehipani is about 50 km away from Jashipur. Located inside the Similipal Wildlife Sanctuary boundary (buffer zone), the village has no roads and during the rains remains cut off from the outside world for more than 4 months. Located inside the boundary (buffer zone) of the Simlipal Wildlife Sanctuary, the village has no roads and, during the rains, remains cut off from the outside world for over four months. Starvation and malnutrition-related deaths are common both in the buffer zone as well as the core zone
Scope of livelihood status
After the Supreme Court ban on collection of NTFP they adhere to cultivation of Rice. This production of rice lasts for six months. Another six months they migrate for work to nearby districts.
Social- Cultural system
The inhabitants of similipal area are mainly tribals. Mainly Kolha tribe. They have to walk 27 KM to buy salt or vegetables. Main food item is rice and salt. As the cost to hire a vehicle to bring a ailing patient to the hospital is high they prefer to black magic to save the life of the patients.
Status of government employment generation work
NREGA functions in the area. But tribals do not get required jobs from it.
Status of health, education and child support service
In Gudgudia panchayat there are 7AWC centres. the nutrition status of the Gudgudia GP is given below.
Nutritional Status Period ( 30.05.07 to 01.06.07)
Total No of Children
Total Malnutrition – 82.8% (As Per the report of Medical Officer, Govt. Of Orissa)
Except for the health camp, not much is being done to fight the situation. People cannot travel long distances in order to avail of government facilities, and doctors don’t visit regularly to the area. According to the tribals, there is one anganwadi for every 1,000 people and immunisation programmes are not being carried out properly. A child must be immunised with measles vaccination within nine months. But none of the children in l have been immunized. Children and women are not given medicines for malaria at the anganwadi. Other immunisations (DPT, pulse polio) too have not been carried out properly by the anganwadi workers. “The villagers, mostly tribals, are thus forced to resort to traditional medicinal practices and, in some cases, witchcraft,”
One primary school is there at Gudgudia Panchayat. High School is 27 Km away from it. Most of the time the teacher does not come to the school. So the education of the tribals is a major concern. Due to lack of education they are adhering to traditional techniques to cure diseases.
Voice for child rights – Orissa, an alliance working for the protection and promotion of child rights in the state of Orissa staged a dharna condemning this malnutrition deaths at Similipal Sanctury area in front of state assembly on 8th June 2007. It has also placed a memorandum to the WCD minister for a immediate intervention of the government. The Hon’ble minister met a delegation of VCRO led by the state convener to take the memorandum. But the response of the Hon’ble minister is discouraging. Though she instructed her dept to look into the matter but the way she talked to the delegation is not a behaviour of a responsible minister and that to in charge of an important department.
Extract of the Meeting with Minister
The minister did not take the issues as a serious matter. She questioned the delegation that why are we bothered about the death at Similipal sanctuary area as several issues are there in other parts also. One can easily make out from the minister’s opinion on the issue that how sensitive the state government is towards the issue. She said lots of children are working in the dhabas and questioned what why you people are not solving the issue. Perhaps she is not aware of the fact that only government can enforce law to prohibit child labour. Instead of supporting the cause she questioned the credibility of NGOs. When we wanted to know if at all the government will look into the matter she said lets see what can be done on part of the WCD dept only pertaining to ICDS.