There has been gross administrative lapse in monitoring of children in the areas from where recent deaths have been reported in Sheopur district, member of National Commissioner for Protection of Children's Rights (NCPCR), Vandana Prasad said.
Prasad was talking from Sheopur after visiting the affected areas on Tuesday. She said that the situation of anganwadis in the affected areas was so poor that even proper records needed to find the relation of recent deaths with malnutrition were not available.
"The anganwadis are running very sub-optimally and hardly have the human resources, infrastructure or capacity to monitor the growth of children and track the malnourished ones," she said. However, the gross poverty and depravity of the families and the nutrition status of the living siblings of the dead children left no iota of doubt that the deceased children might have been malnourished too, Prasad, who is a nutrition expert, said.
She said that given the prevailing conditions, strong recommendations for formulating a policy for community based approach towards managing malnourished children especially before and after they are taken to nutrition rehabilitation centres (NRCs), placing enough field staff and their capacity building for growth monitoring and tracking of each child, functioning of anganwadis for longer hours and monitored and direct feeding of malnourished children would be made by the commission.
The NCPCR member visited the nutrition rehabilitation centres at Vijaypur and Karahal and anganwadis at Veerpur and Sesaipura villages of the respective blocks. Veerpur has reported maximum children's deaths during the last three weeks.
She said that the major investment of the state looked to be in the NRCs, but there was no mechanism for ensuring that children do not require to be taken to NRCs or do not relapse after coming out of these centres. "This is only possible through community-based interventions," she said.
Prasad said that the district authorities including collector Dnyaneshwar Patil accompanied her all through the visit and looked intent on taking remedial steps. The collector on the spot agreed to issue antyodaya cards to about 2,700 deprived families so that they could get subsidised ration.
She also said that she was informed that the state planned to make extra investment to tackle malnutrition and she was promised that if she visited the area after six months, things would be totally different.
"Since there are provisions of reforms under Atal Child Health and Nutrition Mission and Integrated Child Development Scheme in the 12th plan, there is greater scope of intervention," she said, adding that she would certainly be visiting the area again after six months.
Prasad would visit district Satna, another malnutrition hot-spot, on Wednesday and hold a meeting with senior officials in Bhopal on Thursday before concluding her three-day visit.