New Delhi: Tribals who constitute 8 percent of country's population account for nearly 50 percent of malarial deaths and 70 percent of brain malaria cases, Tribal Affairs Secretary Hrusikesh Panda said here on Wednesday.
Panda said major health issues for the tribals are different from those affecting the mainstream like hypertension. Diseases like malaria and sickle cell anaemia are more prevalent among tribals but as a result of less focus they are in the bottom line of indication.
"It's not that the tribal people suffer from any kind of special health diseases. The incidents of some diseases are very high for the tribals although they constitute 8 percent of the population.
"They have about 30 percent of the total malaria cases, 70 percent of brain malaria cases and 50 percent of malarial deaths," Panda said addressing a seminar jointly organised by the ministry of tribal affairs and the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Panda also flagged concern over the high rate of sickle cell anaemia among the tribal population which he said was a result of lack of awareness at the lower level of health services to identify sickle cell traits.
"The treatment for sickle cell anaemia is not very good but what can be done is measures like identifying the sickle cell traits when it is not a full blown disease.
"We sanctioned funds and advised for some kind of a card system in which you test all the kids in the schools for sickle cell but it turned out that many district Chief Medical Officers did not know what a sickle cell test was," Panda said.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the day-long seminar, Panda listed specific advisories like asking people to undergo sickle cell test before marriage as preventive steps.
"If marriage advisories are brought out that a person with trait of sickle cell doesn't marry another person with the same trait... Steps like these may prevent such diseases," the Secretary said.
Malnutrition among tribals was also a major issue at the seminar which experts said was largely an outcome of the eating habits of tribals said to be largely devoid of vegetables.
"Nutrition is an issue because of their food gathering habits. Their food sources have disappeared with the reduction of forest areas and the practise of growing vegetables is not very common among tribals.
"They will have to be taught to grow vegetables now because consumption of green leafy vegetables is very important to prevent diseases like fluorosis," Panda said.
The seminar, which was attended by Indian Council of Medical Research DG V M Katoch and more than a dozen experts from all over the country, had sessions on maternal and child health, nutrition, malaria and sickle cell anaemia among others. Focus on diseases having high prevalence among tribals: Panda