At least 461 children have been found to be malnourished in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh, according to a survey by health authorities.
Ten teams of National Health Mission, state women and child development department, and UNICEF conducted an extensive survey in 106 villages in the district and screened 3,805 children for malnutrition.
In five days, the survey found 461 children in the district suffering from malnutrition, with 145 of them critically malnourished.
Following the findings, Sheopur collector Pannalal Solanki declared that day care centres would be set up in 24 villages to eradicate malnutrition.
According to sources, malnourished children were taken to three nutrition rehabilitation centres (NRC) in the district. The centres, at district hospitals, were overflowing with patients and their mothers, despite increase in the number of beds from 20 to 35.
Solanki said doctors have been called from Vadodara of neighbouring Gujarat to address the situation. At least 19 kids have died of malnutrition in Sheopur since August although media reports pegged the toll at 62.
According to officials 10 children died in Golipura, three in Nichli Khori, four in Baroda block and two in Morawar village.
On the 62 deaths, principal secretary health Gauri Singh said they were “not necessarily due to malnutrition” and that the media had hyped the issue.
“We are still investigating. A review meeting has been taken to improvise the condition of kids admitted to NRC,” she said.
Principal secretaries of health and women and child development departments visited Sesaipura and Upri Khori villages in the district on Monday to take stock of the ground situation.
Congress MP from Guna Jyotiraditya Scindia had recently written to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Union minister women and child development Maneka Gandhi expressing his concern over the reported deaths.
According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, only 0.4% of children in Sheopur aged between 6-23 months receive proper diet.
The district had witnessed 20 malnutrition deaths in 2006 following which Supreme Court constituted a Joint Commission of Enquiry (JCE) to investigate the issue. The commission’s findings showed that 94% children of Seharia tribe in the district were malnourished and 15% critically malnourished.
Activists had highlighted the lack of basic facilities for the mothers and children in the affected areas.
“Instead of finding out structural causes, the government tries to provide supplementary nutrition to deal with malnutrition. A comprehensive planning approach is totally missing to resolve the issue,” right to food activist Sachin Jain said.