Church Charity 2013-2014 - link with the village of Dengaambo, Orissa, North India

Rowbarton's Church Charity for 2013-14 is the Health Clinic in the tribal village of Dengaambo, Gajapati Area of Orissa, North


Gajapati district is a tribal area where 90% of the population belong to the Kui, Soura and Santal tribe and scheduled caste, called Dalits. These people have little access to education, and are predominately illiterate.

The economic condition of the people is miserable as most of the people live in the forest and mountains in cottages made of bamboo, trees, branches, leaves and straw. They are dependent on the forest for their livelihood. The Christian population in the district number more than 60,000.

The Baptist Missionary Society had started Gospel work 60 years ago and now many denominations are involved in evangelistic work but no organisation has started social development programmes except the CNI. The resources are inadequate in comparison to the huge need.  It is essential for the Church to start developmental programmes to bring about necessary changes in the life of the Tribals, Harijans, Christians and other backward caste people.  As a church body, the socio economic upliftment of the people cannot be ignored.

Due to strong belief in fatalism, the tribals are superstitious and are victims of witchcraft and black Magic. Medical facilities are practically negligible. The people very often suffer from malaria, influenza, scabies, tuberculosis, typhoid, vitamin deficiency, anaemia and leprosy. These diseases are caused due to water contamination and unhygienic conditions, coupled with a low calorie diet and lack of health education. Diseases related with malnutrition are common among the children.

People being far and away from the mainstream society are totally unaware of their basic rights. Due to their inaccessibility, developmental assistance has not been able to reach them and they do not have access to resources, knowledge and means of production and employment.  Facilitation is required to overcome practical barriers to develop skills, to organize, plan, implement, coordinate and manage development.

Gajapati is a mountainous and thickly forested area. The soil is stony and uneven.  Over the last two decades, there has been massive deforestation. There is no river, canal or any other perennial source of water for cultivation. Rainfall is moderate.

The size of the villages in the region varies from 10 to even 1000 households. People basically live on roots, leaves, fruits and hunting. Being illiterate, poor and exploited, they remain malnourished throughout the year.

The families derive most of their income from daily labour. Most of them are involved in agriculture, but only 5% of the population possesses their own land. The remainder rely on share cultivation and usually find only 60 days a year manual labour on farms. People are also involved in collecting firewood. Some people migrate to cities in search of work. However, without relevant skills work is difficult to find.

Although tribals mostly inhabit the area, Schedule Castes and Tribes and Other Backward Classes and General Castes are also found. Social differences among the people of the area are evident in that the villagers have been segregated according to their castes and live separately. It is also observed that the higher caste people hold a majority of agricultural lands and thus control the total economy and social life of the villages.

Women, especially belonging to lower castes and tribal women, apart from being engaged in household chores, also work as agricultural and daily labourers to augment their family income. However, they are not allowed to participate in the decision-making and development processes both at the family and community level. As they are not qualified educationally and do not possess any relevant skill or have any alternative for generation of income, men socially and economically exploit them.

An important feature of the area is that many are engaged in illicit liquor brewing. Illicit liquor is sold and consumed in the area, as well as transported to other areas, which has led to numerous socio-economic and socio-cultural problems.


The project area presents a striking contrast with bountiful nature and appalling poverty, scarce water resources and limited irrigation facilities, large bovine population, with little yield of milk and mutton. Unemployment is very conspicuous. Temporary migration is quite common.  Illiteracy, ignorance and health problems, push people to the misery pit of poverty, deprivation and exploitation.

Some of the major problems are:
1. Drought:
Due to poor rainfall continuously for years, inadequate infrastructure for water harvesting and indiscriminate deforestation, agriculture is difficult and the yield poor, forcing people to migrate to nearby areas for employment which results in many complications in their social and cultural life.
2. Soil erosion:
Due to the fast depleting vegetative cover, soil conversion has become a major problem as during the rainy season the topsoil is washed making the Kantas (water structures) ineffective.
3. Poor agricultural production:
Agriculture production is very poor and primitive, as irrigation facilities cover only 20 to 25% of the land. There is limited use of dry farming techniques and farmers cannot afford HYV seeds. The use of compost and farmyard manure is still not a common practice and lack of capacity or ability to purchase manure, fertilizer and seeds.
4. Poor quality of livestock:
Though there is a large bovine population in this area, their quality is substandard due to scarcity of fodder, lack of proper care and management and absence of proper veterinary facilities, along with lack of improved breeding facilities.
5. Poor quality of Traditional Craft:
Due to modernization, the traditional crafts like weaving, farm carpentry, black smithy and pottery are not in demand due to their crude finish and are failing to find markets for their goods which in turn provide their daily bread.
6. Un-employment:
About 6.608% form the working population. This can be attributed to the involvement of women and children (below 14 years) in agriculture and other allied tasks. On an average, the working mass remains unemployed for about 150 man days.


The new Health Clinic was opened in January 2012, and its work is being maintained by the Christian Hospital at Berhampur.

There are 42 large to small villages with an estimated total of 6000 population in the area. The medical reach for them is very remote and the people simply do not have resources to travel  to Berhampur hospital (120 km) for treatment when they become seriously ill. Most of them try local remedies and are exploited by the local 'quacks'.

There are two staff at Dengaambo, who are trained to provide simple treatment. They help people get better treatment by moving them to suitable places nearby or by transporting them to the Christian hospital in Berhampur. They are also involved in health education, nutrition and helping the villagers to get the benefit of different Govt. programmes.  The hospital is also helping provide subsidised medicines. 

The main sicknesses are Malaria, Tuberculosis, and infections, with malnutrition, anaemia and vitamin deficiency impacting negatively on women and new borns.  Low birth weight leads to ongoing health and development problems - about 7.4 million babies per year in India have a birth weight under 2.5kg (5.5lbs), the highest figure in the developing world.  And India heads the list of countries with the highest number of malnourished children under 5, accounting for 3 out of every 10.  

In Dengaambo, a larger building is planned and foundations have been laid.  The aim is to have a midwife posted there, who can attend women of the area during delivery and take care of the new borns.  Once the new building is constructed, student nurses from the hospital will visit and educate the people in different health matters.

At present, most women traditionally deliver at home assisted by the elderly lady of the household.   The Government has many schemes to encourage people to have their deliveries in a hospital, like free transport, incentive etc. but these are mainly ineffective for economic reasons.  A midwife in Dengaambo, with regular visits by students, would motivate the people to opt for safer hospital deliveries, improve health and hygiene education, and  reduce maternal and infant mortality in these areas.