As locals complained of a mysterious disease killing the villagers, health officials from the district headquarters of Malkangiri, who visited Benchanpalli to probe the deaths, cited alcoholism.

Alcohol, superstition take a toll on tribals in Odisha villages

Two months in the past, Muka Talam, a tribal in Odisha’s Benchnpalli village, complained of swelling of arms and stomach. He died a couple of days later unable to eat something. Like him, Bata Ganga and Jogendra Bata of the identical village, too, confirmed comparable signs earlier than they died. After them, Ganga Bata and Beti Lachha, all within the age group of 35-50 died, whereas about 8-10 different villagers confirmed signs of swollen toes and abdomen, lack of urge for food, and acute weak spot.

As locals complained of a mysterious illness killing the villagers, well being officers from the district headquarters of Malkangiri, who visited Benchanpalli to probe the deaths, on Friday mentioned there was no thriller. “It is mostly… alcoholism leading to kidney and liver problems. In two cases of deaths, the deceased had cancer and stroke,” mentioned Dr PK Nanda, chief district medical officer, Malkangiri.

Nanda mentioned the deaths occurred as a result of villagers consulted a Dishari, or an area witchdoctor, first after which went to the native major well being centre. “Most of them consume local brew laced with urea for a better kick. Over a period, this proves lethal for them,” he mentioned. “We have sent the sample of the alcohol that the villagers consumed to the State Forensic Science Laboratory in Bhubaneswar to ascertain the composition. We are waiting for the report.”

Two months in the past, round 10 Koya tribals died after displaying comparable signs in Sodiguda village. Between February and June, a couple of dozen deaths have been reported from Kenduguda village beneath Malkangiri block. Many of those that died complained of swollen legs and abdomen. Villagers mentioned that almost all of those that died didn’t even have the energy to stroll or stand correctly and suffered acute respiratory issues.

Doctors in Malkangiri mentioned the deaths in Sodiguda and Bapanpalli have been largely resulting from alcoholism and the unwillingness of the tribals to go to native well being centres fearing Covid-19. “As it is most of the villages are situated at least 10 km away from the nearest health centres and travelling is not easy. Now because of Covid, many tribals are avoiding going there,” mentioned a health care provider.

Experts mentioned other than alcoholism, anaemia can be a cause for the deaths. As per the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey, no less than 47.2% of males within the age group of 15 and 49 years in Malkangiri have been anaemic. For ladies in the identical age group, the proportion was 71.3.

“With such a high anaemic population, do you expect the villagers to have any immunity. The deaths have happened in the tribal villages where malnutrition and undernourishment are acute,” mentioned Durga Tripathy of Harmony, a Malkangiri based mostly NGO.

Officials known as vacancies of docs in major and neighborhood well being centres a significant stumbling block in offering well being providers. Of the 197 posts of docs, solely 91 have been crammed up to this point. The total district has just one eye specialist whereas there are simply 5 gynaecologists.

“We would also start a drive to make the tribals aware of the ill-effects of using adulterants in the country liquor,” mentioned Malkangiri district collector Manish Agarwal.