At 59 deaths per 1000 births, Madhya Pradesh has the highest infant mortality rate. Many malnourished families know nothing about government schemes.
Malti, a tribal from Chhipar village on the Rajasthan border, brought her malnourished son to the nutrition rehabilitation centre
at district headquarters Shivpuri, 300-km north of Bhopal.
The eight-month-old child, with matchstick limbs and shrunken skin, lies immobile on the bed and hardly responds even when his mother takes him in her lap. He weighs a pathetic 3.7kg. The exasperated mother blames poverty for her son's condition. Her husband is a labourer getting only occasional work.
Malti says she is not aware about government schemes including the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme but only that her husband roams nearby villages looking for jobs and often returns empty handed.
Such cases are rampant in rural MP which carries the infamous tag of being among the worst in the country as far as health and nutrition indices are concerned.
In the recent Sample Registration Survey report (2011), it retained its position of the highest infant mortality rate at 59 deaths per 1000 births - not surprising, since more than half the children born here are underweight and continue to be so till the age of six.
The last National Family Health Survey (2005-06) put the underweight children in the state at 62.7%.
In 2011, the state government got a fresh survey done through the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) Hyderabad, which put the number at 51.9% - lower than the NFHS figure, yet alarming.
In the last three months, deaths of over 50 children were reported from Shivpuri and Sheopur district, due to malnutrition prompting officials to take action.
One of the worst hit districts, Shivpuri has 55% underweight children, 62% stunted children and 25.8% wasted children according to the NIN survey.
With inputs from Ranjeet Gupta