Deplorable road, absence of health staff lead to maternal death

Dozens of villagers gather to pull a pickup truck stuck in the kutcha road that leads to Kamhua Noknu.
The primary health centre in Kamhua Noknu serving as a shed for cattle.

[ Nellie N Manpoong ]

ITANAGAR, Nov 8: A case of maternal death was reported from remote Kamhua Noknu village in Pongchau circle of Longding district on 5 November, and the villagers claim that the death occurred because of the poor condition of the road and the absence of doctors and nurses at the PHC there.

The woman, identified as Nonsai Pansa, died during childbirth.

Villagers of Kamhua Noknu informed that this is not the first time that a pregnant woman has died due to lack of timely medical care. Another woman had died during childbirth in late October this year, and the death of Nonsai Pansa has infuriated the villagers, who have raised questions over the road’s condition and the empty PHC in Kamhua Noknu.

Speaking to The Arunachal Times, one Phosul Wangsa informed that his wife had also died during childbirth in 2013 due to lack of timely medical care.

“The nearest health facility was in Longding at the time, which was about four hours away. My wife could have been taken to Longding but it would have taken us forever to reach there, using the kutcha road. We could have also saved her if we had doctors and nurses here to give her medical aid,” he said, adding that “the medical staff would probably come and render their services if the uncarpeted kutcha road was well maintained.”

He informed that the villagers have made several complaints regarding the road but their pleas have gone unheard and the road remains as it is.

A few youth leaders had taken up the matter of the road with the authorities concerned last year, and it was reportedly repaired “with mud and some gravel, but survived only for a season,” a youth of the village informed this daily.

“The PHC in Kamhua Noknu was established because the road communication was bad, and to provide the villagers with basic medical facilities, but doctors and nurses cannot come or do not come to the PHC because of the terrible road condition. Built at a cost of about Rs 1.5 crore, the PHC now remains occupied only by herds of cattle,” she said.

“The absence of medical staffers is a major cause of concern, but the lack of an all-weather motorable road affects us immensely and from all directions. It stands as a major obstacle in the progress of the region, be it in terms of education, agriculture, commerce, or any other ingredient of development,” she said, adding: “The medical staffers claim that they have not been allotted government quarters in the village and travelling on the kutcha road every day is not possible. Even if there were doctors and other medical staff at the PHC, what if someone required a major surgery?

We would still require better roads to get better medical care. It takes us about two hours to reach Longding, the district headquarters, when the roadbed has been filled and rolled with mud and some amount of gravel, or it could take someone an entire day on that stretch of kutcha road.”

The villagers requested that the state government pay attention to improving the road communication in the area, so that tragedies, such as maternal deaths, may be averted.

Khakam block has five villages (including Kamhua Noknu), with a combined population of around 7,000 people.

“The only existing road to Khakam block via Mintong village has not seen any improvement for the last 25 years, and now the authorities are using the Covid pandemic as an excuse to delay it further,” the villagers claimed.