The second wave of Covid-19 has found a new hunting ground in the tribal dominated regions of the country, where the tribals are hardly aware of how to safeguard themselves from the deadly pandemic.
Even as the virus ravages the tribal lands, there is hardly any awareness among people on how to safeguard themselves or what precautions to take.
Lack of access to health services and public transport discourages people from going all the way to health centres.
Tribals do not know that the bodies of Covid-19 victims need to be cremated as per certain protocols. In the absence of a designated cremation ground, bodies are burned in fields or jungles located near the villages.
Amidst the acute lack of awareness, tribals also hide their symptoms and don’t go for Covid-19 testing. Another reason behind them not getting tests is that the centres are located at least 10-15 km away from villages and there is a severe lack of transportation.
Everyone does not have a motorcycle so most of them either depend on public transport or walk to health centres for tests. This discourages people from testing.
It is believed that the virus spread from tribals who returned to their villages after getting infected. The virus is further spreading among tribals. The government has not generated any awareness among tribal communities. People have not been taught the importance of social distancing, nor have they been given any face masks or hand sanitisers.
The condition is the same in several villages of the country where the tribes live as government workers are scared to visit them.
The state government of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujrat, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal ,Bihar and Jharkhand must activate its local bodies to educate tribals as the pandemic is spreading fast. They remained unaffected in the first wave, but the second wave is devastating as the tribals are illiterate and they need to be taken care of.
(Dr Naresh Purohit is a Medical Expert and Advisor National Communicable Disease Control Programme. He is also Advisor to six other National Health Programmes. He is visiting Professor in five Medical Universities of Southern India including Thrissur based Kerala University of Health Sciences. (The views and opinion expressed in this article are those of the author)