Home India News Malnutrition killed 25 in 50 days in Madhya Pradesh district: Activists

Malnutrition killed 25 in 50 days in Madhya Pradesh district: Activists

By Sanjay Sharma, IANS,

Bhopal : Malnutrition has reached epidemic proportions in most parts of Madhya Pradesh. While activists say it has claimed 25 lives in nearly 50 days in the tribal-dominated Sidhi district, the administration says the deaths were due to malaria.

The MP Support Group of the Right to Food Campaign (RTFC) says 25 people, including 22 children, perished in Kusmi block between last week of August and first week of October mainly due to malnutrition.

The RTFC along with the local NGOs, Dalit Adivasi Mahapanchayat and Mahila Adhikar Manch, undertook ground-level studies in the two villages of Ramgarh and Piparhi in connection with maternal and child welfare schemes.

They reported nine deaths, including that of eight children, from Ramgarh between Aug 25 and Oct 11 and 16 deaths, including that of 15 children, from neighbouring Piparhi between Aug 20 and Oct 8.

“All eight children in Ramgarh died of high fever and malnutrition,” the NGOs’ report said. Among the fatalities, five belong to tribal and Dalit communities with two of them belonging to the primitive Baiga community.

As for Piparhi, 14 children belonged to the Baiga community and came from very poor families. The two others were a newborn baby and the mother.

While diarrhoea and fever were found to be immediate cause of death by the NGOs, the families did not have enough to feed themselves, suggesting starvation and malnutrition, the report says.

The report mentions that in both the villages, the public distribution system (PDS) shops do not open regularly, supply inadequate grains, people either do not get work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) or do not get payment for NREGS for long periods.

Also, health workers do not regularly visit villages, mid-day meals and nutritious food is not served as per norms in schools and anganwadi child care centres, and children are not immunised properly.

“The deaths were obviously not reported to the higher authorities of the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) as the director of the department, Gulshan Bamra, expressed ignorance about any such deaths,” alleged Prashant Kumar Dubey of the Right to Food campaign.

But activists say the district administration continues to look the other way.

The CEO of the Sidhi zilla panchayat, John Kingsley, told IANS the number of deaths were not 22 and not due to malnutrition.

“We have got reports of about a dozen deaths from the two villages but they were due to malaria and not malnutrition,” he said adding the panchayat secretary of Piparhi had been suspended for failing to report the deaths in time.

Gautam Adhikari, district programme officer of the DWCD, said: “The records of anganwadis were checked following reports of deaths and none of the children in the villages were found malnourished. The cause of the deaths in question was malaria.”

(Sanjay Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])