83 percent children in Madhya Pradesh district malnourished: survey

Bhopal, Nov 25 (Inditop.com) Deepak is losing his eyesight due to malnourishment. He is one of 23 children found malnourished in Ramgadhwa village of Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa district, says a new survey.

In fact, 83 percent of children belonging to tribal communities in eight villages of the district have been found to be malnourished, claims Birsa Munda Bhu Adhikar Manch (Birsa Munda Forum for Land Rights). It conducted the survey in association with the Right to Food Campaign and the Madhya Pradesh Lok Sangharsh Sajha Manch (MPLSSM).

The survey covering 73 children in eight villages – namely Ramgadhwa, Kureli Koni, Mohaniya, Kalyanpur, Ramnagar, Kuthila, Harijanpur and Khaptiha – found that 31.5 percent were severely malnourished while 51.8 percent were moderately malnourished.

“All these children are neither registered at the Anganwadis (mother and child care centres at the village level) nor have been visited by Anganwadi workers who are supposed to register all the children, keep their records such as age, sex and weight and provide supplementary nutrition, particularly earmarked for malnourished children in the village,” Ram Naresh of the Manch told Inditop.

“Children are bound to die in these villages because of the failure of the system and non-availability of livelihood options. No one from the administration has visited the above villages in the last two years.

“We have been filing complaints with the district administration but to no avail,” adds Ram Naresh.

Sia Dulari, another activist of the Manch, said: “The Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) started with the support of the Unicef for treatment of malnourished children also has proved to be an utter failure as it is always short of beds.”

Take, for instance, the case of Raghuvansh of Ramnagar village.He took his year-old son to the NRC twice over a month ago but was asked to wait for his turn, said Dulari. She said the NRCs also do not have paediatricians and auxiliary nursing mothers (ANMs).

“There is a strong need to ensure accountability and access to health and nutrition services besides proper distribution of land under the Forest Rights Act if the child deaths were to be stopped,” she opines.

The report also divulges big gaps between government records and the actual number of child deaths. “While there have been 1,869 deaths of infants in Rewa district alone in 2009 up to September, the public health department record puts the number at a meagre 503,” they claim.

“ANMs do not visit the village and tribal pockets like the Kureli Koni village have not been included in the below-poverty line (BPL) list after the 2002 BPL census was conducted, with the result that people living in these places don’t get subsidised food,” says Prashant Dubey of the Right to Food campaign in Madhya Pradesh.

“It is a clear violation of children’s right to survival, and raises questions on our commitment towards the UN Convention for Rights of the Child,” Dubey says.

“Despite the fact that the villagers are deprived of their right to food and work caused by lack of livelihood and the malfunction of government schemes, the state government as well as local administration have not taken any substantial action for those children and their families till now,” he adds.