Why must a child die at all, asks government body

February 12th, 2009 - 12:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, Feb 12 (IANS) “Why must a child die at all?” the the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) asked at the first public hearing following reports of deaths due to malnutrition in Madhya Pradesh, NGOs said.
The NCPCR Tuesday reached Satna for the first public hearing on alleged malnutrition deaths, said Sachin Jain of Rights to Food Campaign in Madhya Pradesh.

“Nearly 1,200 persons from 40 villages attended the public hearing. A total of 44 persons appeared before the commission. Of them 24 were those in whose families children have recently died allegedly due to malnutrition”, Jain told IANS after returning from the hearing.

Observing that the death of children cannot be overlooked, the commission said that more alarming was the fact that three fourths of dalit and tribal children were malnourished and called for joint efforts to root out the menace.

“Why must a child die at all?” asked NCPCR chairperson Shantha Sinha and said the issue of children who are already in severely malnourished category should be treated as an emergency and effective programmes be chalked out to take care of them.

“Since there are 2,000 children in severely malnourished category in the district as acknowledged by the administration and there are only four Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs) with a meagre capacity, there is an urgent need to reach out to the children where they are,” Sinha told the Satna district collector.

She also called for coordination of all concerned departments to ensure nutritional security of the children, saying: “Whatever be the cause of death of a child, it should have been prevented”.

“It is unfortunate that a child is not considered malnourished till he becomes a severe case”, said commission member and nutrition expert Vandana Singh who found that more than 75 children in a tribal dominated village were severely malnourished.

An NGO, Spandan, carried out a survey with support from ActionAid (India) in Burhanpur, Khandwa, Khargone and Hoshangabad districts and found that 22 children had died due to undernourishment in six months.

Similarly, the Madhya Pradesh Right to Food campaign and Adiwasi Adhikar Manch reported 28 deaths in Satna district alone between October 2008 and January 2009.

The main reasons ascribed to the deaths by the NGOs, who had organised the hearing, are poorly-equipped government health centres and failure of government schemes to reach a majority of the impoverished.

The participants complained of lack of food as only 18-20 kg grain were available to them through the public distribution system and either they did not get work under the NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) or were not paid on time.

Their other complaints were about non-availability of drinking water, malfunctioning of anganwadis (government-run creches) as well as non-availability of medicine kits and other facilities and improper monitoring of the health of children at anganwadis.

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