Deaths due to malnutrition in Madhya Pradesh’s tribal-majority districts are likely to figure in the United Nations’ Human Rights Council’s 13th session in Geneva during March 1 to 26.
In September 2008, HT first published reports on malnutrition deaths in various parts of the state — Sheopur and Shivpuri in the north, Satna in the northeast and Khandwa in the west – all within 250 to 470 km from state capital Bhopal.
The UNHRC has been sensitised by a Hong Kong-based non-government NGO, Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC). It submitted a four-page report on such deaths in four tribal districts – Khandwa, Rewa, Sidhi and Jhabua. The ALRC and its sister organisation, the Asian Human Rights Commission, have been reporting on child malnutrition in the four districts since 2009.
In 2007, NGOs reported that over 50 people died in Sheopur alone, prompting the Supreme Court to constitute a Right to Food Commission to suggest corrective measures.
Seeking UNHRC’s intervention, ALRC said, “The survival rate of tribal children in MP is abysmally low, as 71.4 per cent of the children are malnourished and 82.5 per cent are anaemic.”
It said 43 malnourished children died in four villages of Meghnagar block of Jhabua district in the last three months.
Even the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) highlighted that the number of malnourished children in the state increased by 5 per cent during 1998-2006.
But state principle secretary of women and child development Prashant Mehta said, “We don’t agree with the NFHS data.”
Two years later, Spandan, an NGO, said 22 children died of undernourishment in June-November 2008. The MP Right to Food Commission and Adiwasi Adhikar Manch also reported 28 deaths in Satna in October 2008-January 2009.