Attappadi’s short-lived babies

Jan 12Njan vishwasichila. Oru kozhapum illatha kutty aayirunnu (I didn’t believe it. The child was perfectly okay),” said Raman as he recalled trembling with shock when a nurse at the Government Tribal Speciality Hospital (GTSH) in Kottathara informed him that his child was no more. His baby boy, for whom he hadn’t even thought of a name, lived all of three days before he died unexpectedly on November 22, 2018.

On November 19, Raman’s wife Bindu had given birth to a perfectly healthy boy who weighed 2.86 kgs at birth. As a precaution, the mother and child were advised to spend a few days at the hospital, mainly to improve Bindu’s haemoglobin levels (doctors said she was anemic) and monitor the infant’s health. His son was behaving like any other newborn would, Raman said, drinking milk at regular intervals, sleeping for long hours and showing no signs of discomfort. On the morning of Nov 22, when Raman was outside somewhere, he said a nurse took the baby to check his weight and returned a few minutes later with the baby in tears. Immediately, Bindu was asked to feed him, but as he was being fed, she noticed the infant shivering. The nurse was called and informed of the baby shivering, upon which he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

“Twenty minutes later, they returned to say that my son had died. At first, they did not specify a reason, but later said the death was due to milk aspiration. But when we checked the baby’s nose, there was no presence of milk,” said Raman.

At the time of his son’s death, Raman maintains that there was no paediatrician or gynaecologist present at the hospital, or even the head-nurse. “If a doctor was there on time, probably my son could have been saved. They (the hospital) are answerable for this.”

Raman’s son was the 11th of 13 infant deaths documented by government authorities last year in Attappadi, Kerala’s only tribal block panchayat located in the frontiers of the Nilgiri Hills in the Western Ghats. It serves as a gateway to the Silent Valley National Park, one of the last undisturbed tracts of the Ghats, home to several rare flora and fauna species. However, in recent decades, Attappadi has hit headlines for an altogether different reason: it’s notorious record of infant mortality and dangerously-low nutrition levels among pregnant women. In many ways, it has presented itself as a cryptic case of contrast in a state hailed for its rapid progress on reducing infant mortality rate. Credit

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