While minister for women and child welfare Pankaja Munde was in Mokhada and Jawhar to take stock of the malnutrition deaths on Wednesday, two-year-old Rahul Wadkar of Jawhar died during treatment at a civic hospital in Nashik on Wednesday because of a malnutrition-related illness.
Rahul, a resident of Ruighar in Bogdari gram panchayat in Mokhada in Jawhar, was admitted to Cottage Hospital, Jawhar on September 19. Vivek Pandit, former MLA and president of Shramjivi Sanghatana, who rushed Rahul to hospital on Tuesday, said, “When will the state government be more serious about such deaths in Jawhar and Mokhada and Vikramgadh. All these places are just 100km away from Mumbai.”
Munde said the previous UPA government was also equally responsible for the malnutrition deaths in the district. She was reacting to a remark made by Leader of Opposition Ramakrishna Vikhe Patil, who blamed the Fadnavis government for failing to tackle the issue.
Munde said the government will fill all vacant posts in Palghar district and take special efforts to rid the area of social evils. Pandit did meet Munde and presented a 25-point agenda to tackle tribal issues, including the appointment of child specialists in each rural hospital, providing three ambulances in Vikramgadh and introducing a ‘108’ emergency service.
Palghar district has reported 12 malnutrition-related deaths in the past 30 days and around 7,200 children between the ages of 0-6 years suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM).
Dr Ratna Raokhande, deputy director of the state government’s health department, Mumbai, however, claims the actual number of children suffering from malnutrition is 4,691. She said the actual reason for the deaths is not malnutrition, but incomplete treatment. “The 21-day treatment required for a malnutrition case has to be completed at a stretch, which the parents do not follow and hence the child develops other complications,” she said.
“The parents are unable to follow the 21-day regime because sometimes they have to migrate to find employment as labourers and are forced to carry the kids along with them, which breaks the treatment cycle. A lack of awareness among the tribals when it comes to malnutrition and its treatment is another factor,” Raokhande said. The locals have alleged it is difficult for them to stay unemployed to focus on the 21–day treatment period and are forced to migrate for employment. A few of them have also blamed poor amenities at the hospital for a family member to stay with the child.