In the second case within two months of faith-healing gone wrong in India’s poorest district, a 15-day-old infant died in Odisha’s Nabarangpur after she was branded with pieces of a heated metal bangle by a quack for “curing” a stomach ailment.
Dr Dharani Ranjan Satpathy, paediatrician at the Nabarangpur district headquarters hospital, told The Indian Express that the infant died of septicaemia, or poisoning of the blood, triggered by the scalding of her skin.
“She died here at 11 pm on Sunday despite our best efforts. It was too late by the time the infant’s parents brought her to the hospital,” said Dr Satpathy.
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The baby’s parents — Boda Kolar and Bindu — from Goram village in Jharigaon block took the infant on January 16 to the local quack after she stopped breast-feeding and started crying continuously.
“Like many villagers in Nabarangpur, the family chose to take the infant to the local quack who applied pieces of a hot bangle on her body with the assurance that it would cure her illness. But it led to an infection. Her parents took her home and later to the community health centre in Umerkote three days ago. After her condition failed to improve, they brought her to the Nabarangpur headquarters on Sunday afternoon,” said Dr Satpathy.
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Officials said the quack, Kusumati, has been arrested while a five-member team has been formed by the District Collector to probe the incident.
India’s poorest district on various development indicators, Nabarangpur is the focus of a year-long assignment by The Indian Express until August 15, 2016. The primary healthcare system in the district in southern Odisha is in shambles with only 55 of the sanctioned 134 posts of doctors filled.
The Indian Express had reported last month that hundreds of parents in the district, most of them tribals like Boda and Bindu, choose to brand their infants with hot nails or bangles in the name of “tradition” to cure various ailments.
In December, a 27-day-old boy was branded on his stomach with a hot iron nail by a quack in the district. The infant’s mother, an anganwadi worker, had taken her boy to the quack after he stopped breast-feeding. The infant survived the branding.
Satyabrata Kanungo, the medical officer of Jharigaon Community Health Centre (CHC), told The Indian Express that creating awareness against such practices was a daunting task.
“After delivery, a woman is supposed to spend at least 48 hours in the hospital. But here, almost all the mothers rush home to take a bath along with their newborns. Tribal customs prohibit the mother from eating after delivery unless she has bathed properly. The child too is given a bath which often leads to infections,” he said.
“And if there are any health issues, the elders in the community, whose views hold sway in the family, always order a visit to the quack,” said Kanungo.
Purusottam Ghasi, the witchdoctor who was arrested for last month’s branding, had said that he never conducted his “treatment” on his own accord but only when “people requested him” to do do. “I get Rs 50 and a few kilogrammes of rice for my work,” Ghasi had told The Indian Express.