Malnutrition in Madhya Pradesh: 50 children die in six months

February 10th, 2009 - 3:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, Feb 10 (IANS) Malnutrition has claimed the lives of over 50 children in Madhya Pradesh in less than six months.

The main reasons being ascribed to the deaths are poorly-equipped government health centres and failure of government schemes to reach a majority of the impoverished, say NGOs.

An NGO called Spandan carried out a survey on malnourishment with the support of Action Aid (India) in Burhanpur, Khandwa, Khargone and Hoshangabad districts of the state and found that 22 children had died due to undernourishment in less than six months.

Similarly the Madhya Pradesh Right to Food campaign and Adiwasi Adhikar Manch conducted a field survey in Satna district that put malnutrition deaths at 28 in four months.

Of the surveyed districts, Satna presented the worst picture with 28 children having died between October 2008 and January 2009. Next came Burhanpur where 12 children are reported to have died due to malnutrition between June and November 2008.

“Similarly, six children died of malnutrition in five villages of Khandwa district between October and December 2008, one child died in a village of Khargone district in October, while three children died in two villages of Hoshangabad district,” says the survey report.

Spandan, on the basis of case studies and oral autopsies, claims that 30 percent of the 216 children surveyed in Burhanpur district, 23 percent of 116 children in Khandwa and 30 percent of 177 children surveyed in Khargone were severely malnourished (grade III and IV).

Detailing the poverty and undernourishment in Burhanpur, the survey said that 58.3 percent children of the district do not attend anganwadis (women and chilcare centres), 7.5 percent families are landless, only 30.7 percent received employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and 25 percent families do not have ration cards.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg since these figures pertain to death of children in five districts of the state in less than six months. Just imagine the gravity of undernourishment considering the fact that there are 50 districts in the state,” said Sachin Jain of the Right to Food Campaign.

“While emphasis was laid on improving Integrated Child Development Schemes (ICDS), the fact that people were not getting paid for work done under NREGA, corruption in allotment of work and other food security issues were neglected,” he said.

“Similarly, action was initiated only in villages where deaths were reported in the past and situation in nearby villages was not considered,” Jain added.

According to the National Health Survey data, the number of malnourished children in the 0-5 years age group is 33,000, which is about 60 percent of the total child population in Madhya Pradesh.

The state has with the assistance of the UNICEF and the World Food Programme unveiled several special schemes like the ‘Bal Shakti Yojana’, ‘Shaktimaan’ and the ‘Bal Sanjeevani Abhiyan’, which seek to treat severely malnourished children.

“But one can make out the level of nourishment provided to children from the state of anganwadis. They lack basic facilities like seating arrangement, drinking water, separate toilets or space to cook nutritious food,” Jain said.

“The percentage of underweight children in Madhya Pradesh has increased from 54 in 1998-99 to 60.3 at present and the percentage of wasted (extremely malnourished) children has according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) gone up from from 20 to 33 despite UNICEF involvement,” said an official of the women and child welfare department on condition of anonymity.

The Madhya Pradesh government, however, claims that the ratio of undernourishment has come down to 49 percent, but ground realities tell a different tale.

According to the report of the Comptroller Auditor General of India (CAG), the government schemes do not reach 52-62 percent of children in the state.

Kalpana Shrivastava, commissioner of women and child welfare department, expressed ignorance about the number of malnutrition deaths reported by the survey, but stressed that the state could only provide supplementary nutrition.

Shrivastava said: “The main problem is that whatever the state provides can only be supplementary nutrition, whether it is through ICDS or mid-day meals. It is hard to tackle malnutrition if hunger is a chronic problem.”

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