The recent outbreak of a yet unknown disease, claiming lives of nine children in a remote Tripura village, brought to light the ethnic minority's deprivation of basic civic amenities.
Some 400 people of 64 families live in Tripura Para in Sonaichhari area under Sitakunda upazila of Chittagong which is about 4km off Dhaka-Chittagong highway.
The main sources of income for the village's residents is jhum or shifting cultivation and working in orchards.
Residents of the village have to depend on natural sources like brooks for water.
Locals said the water in the brooks was inadequate and often turned muddy and unusable during rainy season. There is also a high risk of contamination.
They said they were unaware about government healthcare programmes and that government health service providers never visited their village.
Chittagong Civil Surgeon Dr Azizur Rahman Siddiqui admitted that government healthcare programmes like immunisation and nutrition did not cover Tripura Para.
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Tripura Para in Sonaichhari area of Sitakunda/ Rabin Chowdhury[/caption]
“Local health workers never went to the village to provide services. The health workers did not inform us that the villagers were not included in the healthcare programmes over the years,” he claimed.
He said they would investigate why the indigenous children were not included in the immunisation programme and take stern action against those responsible for negligence of duty.
Lack of awareness and access to modern medical treatment have forced the indigenous people to take recourse to witch doctors and homeopaths.
Also Read- Faith in witch doctors blamed for Sitakunda childrens death
He said the health workers did not "notify them properly" about the outbreak of the life-threatening disease in the village.
"We could have averted the loss of nine lives if we were informed quickly,” he added.
The civil surgeon said they were going to undertake a series of programmes for providing "proper healthcare" to the indigenous people and immunisation of the children.
He also informed that an immunisation centre would be set up soon in the area and that they would launch awareness programmes to inform the locals about modern treatment facilities.
Narrating the long deprivation, Shashi Kumar, a resident of Tripura Para, said: “We often have to go through acute food crisis as we entirely depend on Jhum cultivation. Regrettably, we have not received any financial or other form of support from the local administration in the last few decades.”
Chittagong Deputy Commissioner Zillur Rahman Chowdhury visited the disease-hit Tripura Para on Thursday and promised to install 10 deep tube-wells to mitigate water crisis.
“Many of the problems faced by the people of the indigenous community could have been solved easily if they sought help from the administration,” the deputy commissioner said.
On Friday, the local administration distributed food items among the people of the indigenous community. Each family was given 10kg rice, 1litre edible oil, 1 kg salt, 1 kg lentil, 2 kg potatoes and 12 eggs.