The number of deaths among children and infants in the state is on the decline and a task force of three government departments has been set up by the government to look into various ways to prevent the deaths, women and child development minister Pankaja Munde said on Thursday.
The task force will look at measures to stop migration of tribals and make available employment opportunities for them. A ‘Jachcha Bachcha Yojna’ scheme will be implemented on the lines of Tamil Nadu to take care of infants in tribal area, Munde announced in the state assembly.
She was replying to a debate on malnutrition deaths among children in state’s tribal areas. As many as 84 legislators from across the parties had raised the issue in the Assembly by way of a calling-attention notice.
About 8,000 children had died of malnutrition during April to August in 2016, they pointed out and wanted to know what steps the government was taking to prevent this.
Munde was silent on why the malnutrition deaths were on the rise, but insisted that the number of child deaths was on the decline in Maharashtra. She also said the deaths of children and infant were not only because of malnutrition but also some other reasons such as infection.
According to 2014 figures, infant mortality rate in India was 39 per thousand while in Maharashtra, it was 22. The infant mortality rate in Maharashtra has been on decline, she said.
In 2016-17, during the period between April to August 2016, 9563 children deaths were reported. Of them, the number of infant deaths was 7,868 and child deaths was 1695. This number was less than the previous year, 2015-16, when 21,985 children deaths were reported. Of them, 17,944 were infants and 4041 were children, she said. “For the first time, the state government has appointed a task force of three departments handling the issue—women and child development, public health and tribal development. A consolidated plan to tackle malnutrition is being made which the task force will implement,”she said.
For years, lack of coordination between various government departments has been a major reason for inadequate efforts on part of the government to tackle malnutrition among tribals.
Munde also said chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has cleared a nutrition policy for the state which will prove useful while handling malnutrition. Further, the state government will start village child development centres (VCDC) for which a government resolution is expected in a couple of days, she added. The government has also identified 40 tribal blocks for concentrated efforts against malnutrition.
Narhari Zirwal, a tribal legislator from north Maharashtra, pointed out migration for employment and poor availability of drinking water were responsible for malnutrition deaths of children.