IPOH: The Jahai tribe in Kampung Sungai Kejar in the Royal Belum rainforest complex believe strongly in their pantang larang (superstitions) and reject modern medicine.
The villagers prefer to rely on traditional methods of curing diseases and shy away from medical officers of the Perak Health Department.
Perak Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said this way of life was hindering the department from helping them.
“They refuse treatment from our health officers and run away from us,” he said.
It was reported by The Star‘s R.AGE team that there have been multiple child deaths among the Jahai tribe, related to “serawan” – a strange disease which the villagers said starts with white spots in the mouth and kills within days.
Dr Mah said the health department provides medical services to the orang asli community every month.
There are two types of services – maternal and paediatric, and outpatient treatment, he said, adding that there were about 400 villagers there.
“We have also been giving out food baskets to them since 2011,” he said.
But even this assistance has been ignored by the villagers, especially those at a splinter village in Kampung Bunga Hilir, Dr Mah said.
“They don’t come out to take the food baskets, which results in malnutrition among them,” he said.
It is learnt that a dispute among the villagers had led to the setting up of two splinter villages – in Kampung Kejar 1 and Kampung Kejar 2.
Dr Mah, Temengor assemblyman Salbiah Mohamed, as well as personnel from the state Health Department and the Orang Asli Development Department will be visiting the villages tomorrow to look into the health situation.
“We will be advising the villagers to change their way of life and to accept modern treatment,” he said.
“It will take a lot of work to educate them,” Dr Mah said.
State Health Department director Datuk Dr Juita Ghazalie said records show that only one child, below the age of five, from Kampung Sungai Kejar died about three weeks ago.
The department could not record the cause of death because the parents would not allow a post-mortem.
“However, the father told us that the child had a high fever and shortness of breath, which are symptoms of infection,” she said.
It was also recorded that there were 20 newborns at the village between 2013 and this year.
“As for infectious diseases in the last three years, there were three tuberculosis cases,” Dr Juita said.
“There were also eight cases of malnutrition among the children.”
She said that if the villagers were malnourished, they could be susceptible to diseases like oral thrush.
Dr Juita said the department planned to reintroduce the community feeding programme there, starting next year.
“Previously, we tried to teach the orang asli to cook the food from the food baskets but they would not do it. she said”
“This time, we will cook the food and make sure they, especially the mothers and children, eat it.”