Chaparayi Deaths Due To Malaria, Not Food Poisoning As Claimed by Government: HRF

The Human Rights Forum, following a fact-finding mission, has contended that the 16 adivasi deaths in Chaparayi area of AP were owing to malaria. They disputed the official explanation that these deaths were due to food poisoning, following consumption of rotten meat and contaminated water.

Visakhapatnam: The four-member fact-finding team of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) has asserted that the 16 deaths of adivasis in Rampachodavaram Agency area, including Chaparayi, were due to malaria and not food poisoning, as claimed by the AP Government.

In a press release issued on Sunday, HRF President S Jeevan Kumar and General Secretary VS Krishna pointed out that a malarial epidemic was sweeping the 5th Schedule Region, stretching from Paderu division in Visakhapatnam district to Rampachodavaram and Chintur Agency areas of East Godavari district. They alleged the government was seeking to obfuscate this reality by trying to pass off Chaparayi deaths as due to food poisoning, following consumption of rotten meat and drinking of contaminated water at a marriage function. “This is a reprehensible attempt to portray adivasis as ignorant and superstitious, who do not welcome medical intervention,” they maintained, stating that official failure in dealing with large-scale malaria was sought to be glossed over by the government and its officials.

Declaring that governmental infrastructure in the area was poor, they said the deaths, which occurred over a three-week period from the last week of May to June 22, only came to light on June 23, after being prominently played out in the media. Only then, government personnel rushed to the village and admitted those down with fever, first to the Rampachodavaram area hospital and then to the district hospital at Kakinada. Significantly, 24 of the 30 adivasis of Chaparayi admitted at the Rampachodavaram hospital have tested positive for malaria. This should have been a wake-up call for the government to at least then initiate anti-malarial steps, both short and long-term, in a meaningful and holistic manner, the HRF office bearers observed. Instead, they criticised that all the way from Minister for Health Kamineni Srinivas to district health officials were asserting that the deaths were due to food poisoning, lying brazenly in the process.  More: A Multitude Of Sins Behind Chaparayi Deaths

While criticising that adivasis did not have access to proper health and medical care, Jeevan and Krishna alleged that even the minimum anti-malarial operations were not undertaken at Chaparayi. The first round of alphacypermethrin (ACM) anti-larval spraying was to have taken place in April, but happened only in the last week of May. There was also no distribution of mosquito nets, not just in Chaparayi village but in the two panchayats of Boddagandi and neighbouring Kanivada. Five of the seven bore wells in the village were coughing up only discoloured water, which was unfit for consumption. Though the Konda Reddys, classified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG), had brought this to the notice of officials at the Janmabhoomi programme several months ago, nothing was done, they asserted.

Expressing shock at the post of Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) remaining vacant since 2007, the HRF leaders said this indicated gross official neglect. Further, there was no regular female Multi-Purpose Health Assistant (MPHA) since May 24 and the existing MPHA was transferred to Kutravada. The Kanivada ANM, who took additional charge, and the MPHA (male) were heavily burdened, since they had a jurisdiction of 24 villages in two panchayats in what was a hilly and difficult terrain. Pertinently, if there had been two fully functional ANMs and two MPHA (male) or at least an ASHA in the village, so many deaths could have been avoided, the HFR leaders maintained.   More: What Are The Real Causes For The Deaths Of Adivasis?

They demanded that the existing medical and health staff in the 5th Schedule Region be doubled and personnel recruited on a permanent basis. Besides training, ASHAs must be given a salary of Rs. 6,000 a month in lieu of the present honorarium Rs. 400. They sought immediate supply of mosquito nets and potable water to all adivasi households in the region. They also wanted a permanent protected water facility in Chaparayi, as was done in some of the villages that flank the Maredumilli-Gurthedu road.

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