Pregnant Tribal Woman's Death Calls For Accessible, Equipped Healthcare Facilities

A 21-year-old pregnant tribal woman passed away due to sunstroke after she walked seven kilometres in the scorching heat. Why is India's healthcare schemes not inclusive of tribal people?

Kalyani Ganesan
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A 21-year-old pregnant tribal woman passed away due to sunstroke after she walked seven kilometres in the scorching heat from her village to a primary health care centre in Maharastra’s Palghar district.

Sonali Waghat, a resident of Osar Verra village in Dahanu Taluka, walked 3.5 kilometres on Friday to reach a highway, from where she took an auto rikshaw to visit the Tawa Public Health Centre (PHC) as she was unwell.

The woman, who was in the ninth month of her ">pregnancy, underwent treatment at the PHC and was sent back home. The civil surgeon of Palghar district, Dr Sanjay Bodade, told the PTI that she again had to walk 3.5 kilometres from the highway amid the summer heat.

Pregnant Tribal Woman Dies Of Heatstroke

Later that evening, she developed health complications and went to the Dhundalwadi PHC. They referred her to the Kasa sub-divisional hospital (SDH), where she was diagnosed to have a "semi-comorbid condition." She was also running a high temperature and was referred to a speciality hospital at Dhundalwadi in Dahanu. However, she passed away in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and lost her foetus too.

The doctors at the Kasa PHC provided her with immediate treatment, and she was not found to be in labour. However, since they did not have the facilities to treat her "semi-comorbid condition," they referred her to the speciality hospital.

The officials said that walking seven kilometres in the scorching summer heat aggravated her condition and resulted in her subsequent death. Dr Bodade stated that he visited the PHC and the SDH and carried out a detailed investigation into the incident.


Palghar Zilla Parishad president Prakash Nikam told the PTI that the woman was anaemic and was brought to the SDH by an accredited social health activist. The doctors checked her and gave her medications, but in vain.

He revealed that the Kasa SDH was not equipped with an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and specialist doctors to treat patients with such emergency conditions. If the facilities had been there, the tribal woman’s life could have been saved. The Zill Parishad president said that he will escalate the incident to the appropriate level and ensure that such incidents don’t happen again.

Unfortunately, while the rest of society is progressing, the tribal people are often forgotten and get left behind. They still suffer from several disadvantages, and the lack of healthcare facilities is one of the significant issues that need to be addressed. The death of this tribal woman, leading to the loss of two lives, raised the question of whether India’s healthcare schemes are inclusive of tribal people.

Why we need better healthcare for women in remote areas

The National Family Health Survey identified that 70% of tribal women reported at least one concern about accessing health care. Many tribal villages lack proper roads and transport facilities. Access to healthcare is a person’s constitutional right, and shouldn’t adequate medical facilities be made accessible to people, including tribals all over the country?

Seven kilometres might seem pretty short for urban people who own vehicles or access the umpteen transportation facilities. But imagine the plight of the underprivileged tribal people who lack access to even the most basic amenities. In an emergency, how will they get to a medical facility if there isn't one nearby? How many lives do we need to lose until every hospital in our country is equipped to handle emergency situations?


If there had been better medical facilities and access to basic needs, this woman would still have been alive, as would her foetus. It’s high time the country prioritised focusing on providing necessary health care facilities to tribal communities as well when planning health care schemes.

Suggested Reading: Survey Shows Dismal Condition Of Pregnant Women In Rural India

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