Doddi. Deepthi, 30, lives with her husband and four children in Shanthi Nagar, a settlement for Internally Displaced People in Telangana’s Mulugu district. The settlement has 23 families and is 8km away from the Mangapet village mandal. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Deepthi’s family struggled with food provisions and went hungry on most days as their income depended on daily labour. The lockdowns stopped her husband from going outside to find work. As a result, her two children, Doddi Reena and Doddi Ravi, were identified under Moderate acute malnutrition.
The families in the settlement are poor, and their survival depends on daily labour. Lack of accessibility and poor knowledge of health services force mothers to consult self-proclaimed healers. Deepthi avoided going to the Anganwadi centre as that would mean a good 8km walk. “My children would fall sick frequently. They kept coughing and suffering from fever. I didn’t know what was wrong with them, so I decided to consult the local healer. But my children did not get well,” said Deepthi.
Bal Raksha Bharat has been working in IDP settlements giving food security to the families, promoting education through child-friendly learning spaces and supporting the adults in the families with skill development and training. The on-ground team linked Deepthi’s family to the nearest Anganwadi centre so that they were eligible for take-home rations. The family was provided food kits for four months which included rice, oil, chikki, Horlicks bottles, sugar and spices. They registered the family with the Primary Health Centre for medical support. They ensured that the Auxiliary Nursing Midwifery worker visited them every fortnight to follow up on routine immunisations, supplement intake and other essential health services.
Ravi is four years old, and Reena is eight. Both the kids are healthy now. The worst is behind them.
Leading by example
Musakki. Nisha, 11, is the first girl in her settlement in Chintalamori of Mulugu district to attend school. Her parents were never educated and worked as daily wage labourers. Being a part of the IDP settlement, Nisha started her pre-primary education at Bal Raksha Bharat’s Child-Friendly Learning Centres since regular school and Anganwadi was inaccessible.
She joined the tribal welfare school in Tadvai in 2019 in Class 3. Her education was disrupted due to the pandemic, but she is now back in the residential school, studying in Class 5. She wants to become a teacher. She has become an inspiration to other children in the settlement, and she has motivated 10 girls to join the same ashram school.
Nearly a decade ago, when the Naxal insurgency was at its peak, a section of the vulnerable tribal population was forced out of Bijapur, Dantewada and Sukma districts in Chhattisgarh. Over 50,000 people moved to the dense forest areas of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. These Internally Displaced People belonged to the Gutti Koya tribes. Far away from their homes, they settled in an unfamiliar land, where the local dialect and culture were alien to him.
Their new homes brought in a new set of problems. These settlers came in conflict with the forest officials and police. They were perceived as informers or Naxal sympathisers. Moreover, they lacked access to basic primary healthcare, education and protection for their children as they were settled deep into the forest reserves. Malnutrition and infant mortality are high among children because of a lack of awareness and home-based services. Non-recognition as local tribes, absence of identification (Aadhaar) cards, non-acceptance by government agencies, and absence of skills and livelihood opportunities have contributed to their isolation. Going back to their home state is also not an option for them.