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A silent killer: Malnutrition consumes 24 kids in 2 months in Odisha
More than two dozen children have died of malnutrition in Malkangiri district of Odisha in last couple of months, according to official figures, but independent accounts put the death toll at a shocking 47.

OVER THE last two months, 24 children in the age group of 2 – 5 years have died due to malnutrition in Uskapally, Portel, Badili village under Korukonda block; Namkonda village under Kalimela block and Charkiguda village under Malkangiri block of Malkangiri district of Odisha.

Since October 2 this year, Uskapally recorded deaths of eight children while Portel village also recorded similar number of deaths between September 16 and October 16.

Though officials have only confirmed 24 deaths, but the unofficial figure puts the death toll at 47. Medical experts from Maharaja Krishna Chandra Medical Collage and Hospital Berhempur confirmed that the deaths were recurring respiratory infections (viral encephalitis).

However, the Chief District Medical Officer Dr. Sashibhusan Panda admitted the deaths caused by malnutrition lead to the killer disease. Dr. Panda told this citizen Journalists that the real cause of deaths not being reported to the government is out of fear of losing their jobs, since he is at the edge of retirement.

Politicians and medical teams chose to cover up the deaths caused by starvation or malnutrition. Unnatural deaths of tribals occur mostly among the children who are below five. Though such deaths are attributed to malnutrition, viral encephalitis, fever, cough and food poisoning, the socio economic and physical aspect is ignored.

Senior officials claim that people are being advised to consume disinfected drinking water and even  mosquito nets have been provided to each family of the five villagers, who have been affected. Different species of mosquitoes have been collected for proper testing to find out the reasons of the deaths.

Over the last two decades, the natural resources - life line of lakhs of tribals of undivided Koraput districts have been systematically cut off, forcing them to die slow, but silent deaths. Koraput at one time had the highest percentage of forest in the Odisha state, but felling of trees has sharply reduced the forest cover from 51.18 percent to 30 percent.

Four hydroelectricity projects have destroyed the forest in the reservoir area and the situation has been made even worse by several 'development works' and industries. If this is the trend, then the tribal population may decline faster than we can imagine.

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Vibhav Kant Upadhyay
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