Govt wakes up to hunger deaths

A day after HT reported that 16 children under the age of six had died due to malnutrition and related illnesses since April in Rafiq Nagar, a slum in Govandi, central government and civic officials visited the spot.

The slum, not far from the Bandra-Kurla Complex, is home to mainly migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh. Their children have no access to food given through the Public Distribution System since their families don't have ration cards, nor is there a civic health post in the slum. Between 40% and 60% of the city's nearly 7.3 lakh slum children up to four years of age are malnourished.

Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was away in Gadchiroli and did not respond to HT phone calls or messages. Women and child development minister Varsha Gaikwad also did not respond to calls or text messages.

"A CM-appointed committee will look into urban malnutrition, particularly issues involving the food and civil supplies department," she had said last week.

Officers of the Integrated Child Development Services, a Central scheme to tackle malnutrition, visited the homes of some of the malnourished children. A doctor examined Gulanaz Sheikh, who turned one in September but weighs only 5 kg.

"She exhibited signs of severe malnourishment. We will send her to Nair hospital," said a scheme officer requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

"Apart from nutrients, these children need medicines for worms and other conditions that don't allow them to grow as they should."

Civic Medical Health Officer Vinita Jadhav, who is in charge of the slum, admitted there had been deaths but contested the figure quoted by HT.

"We haven't done a survey recently but the number of deaths is not as high as 16," said Jadhav, who has assigned officials to collect the data.

 

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