The tribal areas of Attappadi have witnessed high rate of abortions even as infant deaths due to malnutrition and anaemia have ebbed away in the last two months.
“The number of abortions has crossed 40 this year. As many as 15 abortions of which six were done on medical grounds were carried out in August alone. For the 25,000 strong tribal population in the region, 35 abortions a year may be considered normal, but 40 abortions in eight months can raise an alarm,” said deputy district medical officer Dr Prabhudas, who conducted a survey along with Health Supervisor Rema Devi of the Community Health Centre in Agali and field staff in August.
In a study on abortions in 15 mothers in the three panchayats of Agali, Sholayur and Pudur, it was found that only four of them had attained 18 years at the time of marriage.
Counselling of adolescent girls and tribal hostel girls is widely recommended to prevent early marriage. Of the 15, three cases were ‘primi’ (first pregnancy) while most of them were ‘multi gravida’ (pregnant for the third time) with recurrent abortions.
All of them were anaemic and underweight as none of them weighed more than 40 kg at the time of marriage, underscoring the fact that intensive campaign was the need of the hour to promote folic acid intake.
Moreover, awareness to avoid tobacco use and discourage excessive tea consumption will help in keeping anaemia at bay.
There were also signs of dental fluorosis in three cases as the fluorine content is high in the tap water of the area, according to water analysis study conducted by Attappadi Hills Area Development Society (Ahads) in 2005.
Three of them had visible goitre due to iodine deficiency. However, no one underwent thyroid analysis during pregnancy period, stressing the need to have a thyroid function test (TFT) facility at the Kottathara hospital.
Regarding the salt consumption level, 12 used iodised salt. The majority of them consumed 5 to 10 glasses of water a day, which is very low considering the nature of their work.
The Unicef, in a study, had reported that reduced intake of fluids leads to oligamnios and recurrent urinary infections, which may lead to abortions and pre-term labour. In 13 cases women had to carry water from long distance.
The intake of milk, fish and eggs was also low.
The report cited the Unicef recommendation that weight management of mothers was essential in Attappadi to prevent low birth weight and intra-uterine growth retardation. Meanwhile, the head of the team from the National Institute of Nutrition Dr Lakshmaiah who spoke to ‘Express’ from Hyderabad said that during the visit to Attappadi it was found that many women were marrying within the tribe which could also lead to miscarriages and pre-mature births.
“I have written to the District Collector to suggest a date for the team to come and present its findings and recommendations in the various oorus of Attappadi,” he said.
(To be Concluded)