One lakh twenty two thousand four hundred and twenty two. That’s the number of “malnutrition-affected” children that have died in Madhya Pradesh over the last four years, according to the State health minister Anup Mishra’s admission in the State assembly on Monday.

After repeated denials of several independent human rights reports over the last one year, the State government finally admitted that with 60 per cent of children affected, malnutrition was a major problem.

While the entire number (1,22,422) does not directly represent malnutrition deaths, the health minister’s answer confirms that malnutrition-affected children are more prone to other diseases like measles, malaria, diarrhea and Pneumonia, which eventually cause death.

In a written answer to MLA Mahendra Singh Kalukheda’s question, the health minister admitted that 60 per cent of the children in the State were suffering from malnutrition, confirming the figures stated in the National Family Health Survey-III (NFHS-III).

The grossly underdeveloped Bundelkhand region of the State shows some of the most disturbing trends in child deaths. Out of the total deaths over the four year period from 2005-06 to 2008-09, around 13 per cent deaths were reported only from Bundelkhand.

Further, districts like Tikamgarh, Sagar and Panna from the region, show massive percentage increase in child deaths in 2008-09 over 2005-06 figures. While Tikamgarh shows the maximum percentage increase of 469 per cent, Sagar and Panna show percentage increases of 189 per cent and 273 per cent respectively.

Further, out of the 48 districts mentioned in the answer, seven have had more than 1000 children dead over a one year period (2008-09). These include Chhatarpur (1242) and Sagar (1481) districts from Bundelkhand.

Besides, other Bundelkhand districts like Panna (626) Tikamgarh (455) and Damoh (621) all show a massive increase in child deaths over the 2005-06 figures.

The other districts that have the dubious distinction of 1000+ child deaths are Satna (1856), Betul (1190), Sidhi (1122), Balaghat (1150) and Shivpuri (1059).

The percentage increase in child deaths over 2005-06 figures in some other districts is also astounding. These include Betul (112.5 per cent), Sidhi (96 per cent), Dhar (213 per cent) and Khandwa (368 per cent) among others.

When asked about the child health crisis, Principal Secretary Health S.R.Mohanti said the state government had acknowledged the gravity of the crisis and was making a lot of efforts to address it.

“We plan to tackle this crisis with our Special New Born Care Units (SNCU), Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRC) and Paediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU),” said Mohanti.

“We have the highest number of NRCs and SNCUs in the country. Besides, the Chief Minister is soon going to announce a Mukhyamantri Baal Aarogya Mission to address this issue. I expect all this will bring down our IMR by 20/1000 live births at the least,” he said.