The state government on Friday told the legislative assembly that 13,683 infants had died between January and September in Maharashtra, but denied that the cause was malnutrition.
In a written reply to a question in the assembly, state women and child development minister Varsha Gaikwad said that 13,683 children aged up to 1 year were reported dead in the first nine months of 2011. In the same period, 4,005 children between 1 and 6 years were reported dead. In Thane district alone, 833 infant deaths were reported between January and October.
However, the minister denied that the children died of malnutrition. “Child deaths do not occur because of malnutrition. Malnourished children die due to being underweight, early delivery, birth defects, pneumonia and other ailments,” said Gaikwad.
In a reply to another question, Gaikwad admitted that 14,583 children were found malnourished in Melghat, a backward region in Amravati district. “In September, 11,478 children were found to be underweight and 3,105 were severely underweight,” said Gaikwad. Of them, 231 children including 92 newborns were reported dead, she added.
Gaikwad was replying to questions on the number of malnourished children in the state, asked by Congress legislators Kalidas Kolambkar and Subhash Zanak and others. Gaikwad said several measures were being taken to prevent malnutrition such as providing nutritious food to expectant mothers, to children up to 6 years of age and to their mothers under the Integrated Child Development Project.
The state has also set up child treatment centres in affected areas, she added. The government is in the process of issuing a white paper to roll out its plan to check malnutrition.