25 November, 2020

Nutrition Warriors | Hot Iron In A Child's Belly -- A District Collector's Fight Against Superstition In A MP District

A district collector takes it upon himself to rid the region of a degrading practice visited upon sick children—the scourge of daagna

Somavanshi, the popular collector, with a happily squealing flock
Photograph by Jitender Gupta
Nutrition Warriors | Hot Iron In A Child's Belly -- A District Collector's Fight Against Superstition In A MP District
outlookindia.com
2020-01-10T15:53:51+05:30

Umaria, Madhya Pradesh, goes to sleep at 7 pm. Or the roads give that impression—quiet and enchantingly deserted. The young (it was carved out of Shahdol in 1998) and small district is also home to Bandhavgarh National Park.

Umaria also has a prevalent malpractice, called daagna, which has its roots in superstition. Under this, village elders or local healers singe a sick child’s belly with hot iron, a piece of bangle, neem wood, or even the sharp end of a sickle. “Children are usually branded when they suffer from pneumonia, when the respiration rate goes up and chest in-drawing happens. Village folks believe it will bring relief, but that’s superstition. Plus, there’s a risk of the wound getting infected,” says Chandra Pal Shakya, a paediatrician at Umaria’s district hospital.

Learning of this when he took over as district collector in March 2019, Swarochish Somavanshi decided to gauge its extent. He told officials to rec­ord instances of daagna along with other indicators like weight, height etc in the...

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