Why is Sheopur a `malnutrition hot-spot of the world’ as the Joint Commission of Enquiry (JCE) instituted by the Commissioner, Supreme Court of India termed it in its recent report?
A report submitted last year by the Bal Sanjeevani Campaign stated that 1,300 children in Sheopur district were found to be grade 3 and grade 4 malnourished.
A dozen children from Patalgarh village died due to post-measles complications compounded by malnutrition in February. Eighty children had been hospitalised.
But doctors said the deaths were caused by various viral infections. A magazine quoted CMHO of Sheopur, Dr. A.K. Dixit, as saying that there may have been a couple of cases of measles, which may have been compounded by malnutrition. However, most of them were viral infections of various kinds, including bronchitis and pneumonia.”
Dr. PC Mahajan, head of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the Gwalior Medical College, said: “In cases of severe malnutrition, vaccination is not effective. A second attack of measles cannot be prevented. Unless malnutrition is treated, nothing can be done.”
Even today, many children in Patalgarh suffer from severe dysentery with bleeding, vomiting and persistent cough. In the absence of other sources of nutrition, a mid-day meal provided at the village school would have been a lifesaver for children. However, though there is a school building, there is no schoolmaster.
Other food-security initiatives launched by the government, which could have prevented such tragedies, also appear to have fizzled out.
Average working year for members of Sahariya tribal community lasts only four months in the summer, as they collect forest produce. There are no irrigation facilities. When there is nothing else, they eat sama, seeds of a wild grass which look like very fine rice but have little nutritive quality.
Eight PHCs , two community health centres and 89 sub-centres cater to no less than 608 villages in Sheopur district. As per the data provided by the Regional Medical Research Institute of Tribals in Jabalpur, 93 per cent of Sahariya children are victims of severe malnourishment and 15 per cent of them are almost on the verge of death due to malnourishment.
According to a report filed by State Commissioners appointed by the Supreme Court, there were no fewer than 50 hunger-related deaths in the adjoining Shivpuri district. In Hingua village in Badwani district, five children reportedly died of malnourishment, and eight each died in Khandwa and Chatterpur districts.
There are 1,500 villages in Shivpuri, of which 600 are Sahariya tribal villages. But there are only 932 ICDS centres, most of which are located far away from tribal hamlets.
The JCE has forewarned the Sheopur collector of a severe drought in the summer of 2007 unless steps outlined by the commission are taken urgently and in earnest.
A copy of the report has also been forwarded to the district collector with directive to submit Action Taken Report to it by December 31. The JCE has made 42 recommendations to remedy the situation