Sabar children losing eyesight due to insufficient nutrition

Niranjan Sabar- the boy who almost lost his eyesight due to malnutrition
Niranjan Sabar- the boy who almost lost eyesight due to malnutrition

Jamshedpur: It may be difficult for you to accept. But it is true. Several Sabar children, in Tangrain village, Potka are losing their eyesight due to malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency. The doctors confirm it in private. But not in public.

Malnutrition is a bad word. The society does not want to hear it. So it would rather brush the whole thing under carpet. Or just ignore it. And let everything be as it is.

sabar children
Three Sabar Children who were examined in Kashyap Hospital, Ranchi (Pix courtesy: The Telegraph)

This despite the fact that Sabar community has been declared an endangered and protected tribe by the government. The government, obviously, apportions a lot of money for their welfare. However, the life of Sabars has not seen much of a difference.

Yuva Jamshedpur members learnt about their loss of vision and seeing their condition brought them to the government hospital MGMCH at Jamshedpur.

The three — Love (6), son of Ramu Sabar, Ratni (14) and Banwasi (15), daughters of Chogra Sabar — are residents of Tangrain village, which has around 15 Sabar families in Potka block of East Singhbhum, around 40km from the steel city.

Hindustan story on Sabar children losing eyesight
Hindustan story on Sabar children losing eyesight

The doctors said that Love has developed a defect in the cornea, while the two others have reduced power in their eyesight and were diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (an inherited eye disease in which there is damage to the retina and can lead to severe impairment and blindness).

The doctors suspect all the three are also suffering from nutritional deficiency that might further hamper their vision. But the doctors would rather not speak about nutritional deficiency.  

The Telegraph report says: "East Singhbhum welfare officer Philbius Barla said the state ran four schemes exclusively for primitive tribes — medical relief (free treatment); distribution of solar lamps and lanterns; livelihood income generation for tribals like fishery, goat rearing and piggery; and CM’s special food security scheme (35kg of rice per month). However, Potka BDO Payal Raj was clueless."

The Telegraph report also quotes the Potka BDO as saying: “I am not in a position to say at this moment whether foodgrains are being distributed in the villages there.”

The Telegraph report further says, "Head of ophthalmology at MGM Bijoy Narayan, who examined the three, said Love would have to undergo corneaplasty while the two girls would need high-power glasses for the time being and further treatment."

It quotes him as saying, “We do not have the facility for corneaplasty. Love does not have any vision in his right eye while the two others have blurred vision in both eyes,” said Narayan, adding that all three were suffering from nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamin A for a long period, which in future would further hamper their vision.”

Yuva Jamshedpur secretary Barnali later met the District welfare officer Mr. Barla and requested him to help. Mr. Barla has sought a report from MGM hospital superintendent S.S. Prasad and arranged for a free check-up of the children at Kashyap Memorial Eye Hospital in Ranchi.

He told The Telegraph: "We will arrange their operation and treatment at the hospital.”

Barla also wrote a letter to BDO Raj and the district special officer (rationing), seeking a report on the exact status of the food security scheme in Potka.

A Yuva member took the three children to Kashyap Hospital in Ranchi. They were seen by the doctor there.

Another child Niranjan, however, is still admitted in MGM Hospital. He was scheduled to be operated upon. Doctors prescribed some more tests. But till date he has not been operated upon. It is not certain if the doctors here would conduct the operation as they have been describing his condition as bad and may require expert and specialized treatment.

Yuva plans to get in touch with Shankar Netralaya doctors very soon to seek their opinion about the condition of the children. Please watch this space for latest update.

As Sabars are an endangered tribe, the local media took notice of the children's plight. Their interest and questions helped the children's cause in a big way. We hope to see these children get their eyesight back. We thank entire media for their professionalism  and keen interest in these children.

You can read the media coverage here:

Coverage in Prabhat Khabar

Coverage in The Telegraph

The same story has also been carried by other newspapers on March 2, 2013. We will add the links soon as and when we get the webpage links.

Chogra Sabar is a disabled member of primitive Sabar tribe- the father of two children whose vision has been affected due to malnutrition
Chogra Sabar is a disabled member of primitive Sabar tribe- the father of two children whose vision has been affected due to malnutrition

The children's father Chogra Sabar is a disabled man and very poor. Most of the Sabars are very poor, illiterate and forest-dwelling.

Yuva has been trying to help them in whatever manner possible. We will keep giving you latest updates about these children.