High Tamil infant mortality rate being induced?

[TamilNet, Sunday, 09 November 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Colombo based Tamil groups have protested against the preference shown by the government to Sinhalese candidates in the appointment of midwives to the northeast.

Seventy three women were selected by the Sri Lankan ministry of health recently for training as midwives to work in various parts of the northeast.

Of these fifty are Sinhalese, twenty are Tamils and three are Muslims.

Forty seven Sinhalese midwives have been selected from the Ampara district alone whereas no one has been taken from the Kilinochchi and Vavuniya districts.

One from Mannar, one from Mullaithivu, five from Jaffna, eight from Trincomalee and eleven from Batticaloa have been appointed as midwives.

These are currently undergoing training in hospitals of the east. But all the Sinhala women have been sent to Kandy where there are special facilities for training.

A leader of a Colombo based Tamil group who has raised objections in this matter said that the brazen discrimination makes him wonder whether the ulterior motive behind the appointment of midwives is population control in the Tamil areas.

He pointed out that there are very few trained midwives in the northeast now as a consequence of systematic neglect of basic medical care for pregnancy and childbirth in rural Tamil areas for more than a decade.

Pregnant women have to walk for long miles in the scorching sun to reach the nearest hospital which more often than not may not have the necessary medicines or any doctor to handle complications which may arise in childbirth.

People have depended much on midwives who make the rounds in remote areas.

Many old childcare and maternity centres in the rural Tamil areas have been bombed out or have closed down due to stringent restriction imposed by the army.

The dearth of professionally trained midwives can contribute to a rise in infant mortality rates in most of rural parts of the northeast where Tamils live as these have been denied medicines and basic medical facilities by the Sri Lankan government for security reasons.

"In these circumstances", emphasised the leader of the ex-Tamil militant group, "we have to see this outrageous discrimination in the selection of midwives as a deliberate attempt to induce a high infant mortality rate among rural Tamils".


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