As many as 17 Korku tribe children died of malnutrition at Khalwa block of Khandwa district in western Madhya Pradesh in the past three months, a survey done by NGO Spandan has revealed.
Although the official cause of death in most cases was gastrointestinal disorders, all these children —below six years — were also found to be severely malnourished, the NGO claimed. Health department officials, however, maintained that only three children have died of malnutrition in Khalwa block in the past three months.
Seema Prakash of Spandan, which has been working in the district for the past 12 years, told HT that the surveys were carried out in 20 villages of the block.
The data from a nutrition rehabilitation centre (NRC) in Khalwa revealed that the number of admissions of malnourished children has climbed to 107 in August as against 52 in July and 42 in June.
The number of children admitted till September 13 was 60.
“The number of deaths has gone up as malnourished children, with low immunity levels, are more susceptible to seasonal diseases,” Prakash said.
The latest casualty happens to be two-year-old Krishna from Junapani village of the block. The local Anganwadi had identified him as severely malnourished and referred him to NRC. A day later, when his condition failed to improve, Krishna was shifted to the district hospital, where he died.
Korku tribe, predominantly living in the east Nimar districts of Madhya Pradesh, is highly prone to malnutrition. The officials blame the higher incidents of malnutrition on illiteracy and lack of care for children. To top that the people of the community are also superstitious and most of them take their children to quacks for treatment.
When contacted, chief medical and health official (CMHO) of Khandwa, Dr J S Awasya, said only three cases of child malnutrition deaths have been recorded in the Khalwa block in the past three months. He, however, conceded that the menace of malnutrition is prevalent in the block and steps were being taken to eradicate it. “The problem is that the parents are reluctant to admit their children to hospital. The recent rise in number of admissions is due to the increase in efforts made to identify the malnourished cases. We have also formed teams to spread awareness on the menace among the villagers,” he said.
Joint director (health) Dr Sharad Pandit has also confirmed that the problem of child malnutrition has worsened in the area, of late.