Healthcare issues in Lalgarh: 40 kg weight at full-term pregnancy

July 10 2009. A part of the Lalgarh page.

Kantapahari health center. A young mother wraps her baby in a bit of cloth and looks around for a shadow from the glare of the sun. The baby cries out a few times.

She has come from a long way off, having walked around two hours to bring her baby to the health center. The baby is three months old, but looks smaller. Thin hands and legs, big head, bulging eyes – malnourishment all over.

This health care was closed during the revolt. After police entered the village, a doctor has started coming regularly.

The mother’s name is Kadambo Mahato. The doctor tells her to nurse the baby, to give it good food. Kadambo is half starving herself and cannot nurse her baby. When asked about her source of income, she looked down and said “My man works in somebody else’s land. He gets work for four months a year. The rest of the time it is up to the jungle.”

Thus, there can be no second opinion about the fact that Kadambo’s baby would be malnourished.

There shouldn’t be any confusion about this. Because most mothers carry symptoms of malnourishment. When officials went in serach of development in Pirakata’s Radhakantapur, they saw a mother waiting to give birth at full term. She weighed 40 kg (88 pounds).

Kadambo doesn’t know how much she weighed when she gave birth. But we are sure that the Jangalmahal will reveal many other such Kadambo’s, who gave birth under malnourished conditions.

And keep doing so. They have not heard of the word “ligation”. Mahul Mandal of Chamtara village cannot remember if she has ever been told about this. Thus, as long as they are able to do so, children are born one after the other in the jangalmahal under malnourished conditions in impoverished families. Lalgarh’s BDO Sourav Barik says “More than 30% are malnourished”. That’s how the next generation is growing up there.

It isn’t only the lack of food.

The Anganwadi system is in a state of dysfunction (Anganwadi is a government sponsored child-care and mother-care center system in India). In Binpur-1 Block, 88 of the 398 Anganwadi centers are closed. Important posts like Development Project Office or Supervisor go empty for a long time. According to the government, while there are supposed to be 20 supervisors in that Block, there are only 8.

But it isn’t as if the mere presence of officers speeds up implementation of such schemes. In many villages, women reported that they hadn’t seen Anganwadi workers in a long time. The administration of course blames the revolt on this.

After completing a seven-day medical camp in the Jangalmahal, officials are ready to submit a report to the government. In that report, they have stressed that there is tremendous anger amongst people regarding healthcare. People across villages deplored the absence of doctors and medicine. The Block healthcare center is across the river Kansabati – for six months every year people cannot access it. The closest hospital during these times is the Medinipur District Hospital, which is 40 km away. “We do not have the money to get there. It takes money to get on a van.”

The government has thought of mobile health centers. At a place where there is no basic access to health, such ideas sound like a fairytale to many within the administration itself.