Even as the number of malnourished children in Khandwa hospital and two other hospitals in the district rose to around 150 by Monday, other areas in Madhya Pradesh reported about 200 children being admitted in government-run Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres.
As HT reported earlier, more than 40 children have died in Khalwa block of Khandwa over the last two months.
Reports reaching here from Khandwa said the district hospital has been virtually turned into a children’s hospital. More kids are being brought in from the interior tribal areas for treatment for malnutrition and resultant life-threatening complications.
The administration, while admitting 47 deaths in two months, has refused to acknowledge malnutrition as the cause of the deaths. It has, instead, blamed “illness, superstition and families’ carelessness” for the high toll.
The reports said officials were busy ferrying children from tribal areas. In certain cases, officials have had to coerce parents to take their seriously malnourished kids to town for treatment. Doctors at the district hospital said they had referred five very seriously ill children to the Medical College Hospital at Indore.
Till Monday evening, 34 new patients were admitted to the district hospital at Khandwa. Now the number of children admitted to various hospitals and Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres has gone up to 153, said official sources. Hard pressed for space, authorities were forced to turn the visitors’ lodge into a makeshift hospital ward and accommodate children in other wards.
The rush of malnourished children to the hospital has apparently followed a directive by Indore Divisional Commissioner BP Singh, who visited the affected area two days ago. He asked officials to pay Rs 65 per day to the mother of each diseased child. “We did it because the tribals were reluctant to bring their kids to town for treatment as it would have meant foregoing their daily wages,” said Singh.
An NGO had a more alarming number of malnourished children in hospital. Right to Food Campaign, an NGO working for food security for deprived sections of society, said in its report that till Sunday evening, 184 children had been admitted with acute malnourishment at 19 Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres in 13 other districts of Madhya Pradesh.
“The total number of children hospitalised for nutritional rehabilitation should be much higher because there are 50 districts in MP,” said Sachin Jain of Right to Food Campaign, which started collecting data in the wake of alarming reports of deaths of children in Khandwa.
However, official figures about the number of children hospitalised for malnutrition in the state were not available.