No poll issue this: child health a casualty in Madhya Pradesh

May 4th, 2009 - 12:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Sanjay Sharma
Bhopal, May 4 (IANS) It was not even an election issue in a state that ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani touts as a model of governance. Madhya Pradesh’s large tribal community is severely hit by child mortality with malnutrition haunting a majority of children, but it’s barely a blip on the nation’s radar.

For every 1,000 live births among tribals, as many as 140 do not live to see their fifth birthday, says an official report painting a grim picture of the health of the state, which went to the polls on April 23 and 30.

Of the 140 deaths, 95 occur at infancy - before the child reaches the first birthday, and of this 56 die before even a month is out, says the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-3 report.

Child mortality among tribals is much higher than the state average of Under Five Mortality of 94.2 per 1,000 live births, says the report.

For the non-tribal children, the mortality is 44.9 child deaths within 28 days of birth and 69.5 before celebrating their first birthday, the report states.

Malnutrition in tribal children is found to be higher. It is 71.4 percent against 60 percent for the children of non-tribals.

“The state of Madhya Pradesh is one of the biggest contributors to the total neo-natal and child mortality in the country. The data on caste-based classification of child fatality in Madhya Pradesh by the latest state report of NFHS-3 paints a dismal state of affairs of efforts made to protect the right of survival of every child,” Rolly Shivhare, of Vikas Samvad, a rights-based advocacy organisation, told IANS.

“The Scheduled Caste (15.17 percent) and Scheduled Tribe (20.27 percent) together form 34.44 percent of the total population in Madhya Pradesh, but it is unfortunate that this section of society is not assured whether their child will survive or not till the next day,” she said.

“In comparison to the 94.2 per 1,000 live births under 5 mortality among non-tribals, the chance of survival among SC & ST child population respectively is 110 and 140 per thousand live births,” Shivhare lamented.

Ajay Khar, co-coordinator of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, said: “The situation of children belonging to SC, ST and OBC (Other Backward Classes) in terms of all basic indicators of health is defenceless. Merely 11.7 percent tribal children born in the last five year preceding the survey are breastfed within an hour of birth in comparison to 15.9 percent total children given breastfeeding, and merely 22.3 percent children of ST get all basic vaccination.”

“Children belonging to Other Backward Classes have little advantage over the Scheduled Caste kids in terms of anaemia among children, breastfeeding practices and status of malnourishment. As high as 57.4 percent of the OBC community is malnourished, while 62.6 percent of ST children are malnourished - compared to the state average of 60.3 percent. But on the whole - all three SC, ST and OBC children are at risk,” he said.

Sachin Jain of Vikas Samvad said the state lacks a “holistic approach” to solve the problem.

“There is no holistic approach to the problem, a piecemeal approach will not work. The tribal communities are in a very bad position. People in rural and forest areas are not getting proper health facilities,” Jain told IANS.

(Sanjay Sharma can be contacted at

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