National » Tamil Nadu

Updated: July 6, 2012 09:48 IST

80% of school-going kids in cluster of villages found to be underweight

R. Ilangovan
Comment (1)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Bleak future: Sathya of Kootathupatti in Salem district, with her 4-year-old son Vignesh who has multiple health problems. Photo: P. Goutham
The Hindu
Bleak future: Sathya of Kootathupatti in Salem district, with her 4-year-old son Vignesh who has multiple health problems. Photo: P. Goutham

Vignesh is oblivious of his surroundings. The four-year-old boy, cradled in the arms of his mother, stares into vacuum. His legs and hands are loose and lifeless.

“He was like any other child till the seventh month. Now I have to carry him everywhere. He can neither walk nor talk,” says his 21-year-old mother Sathya, a Dalit.

Whether he is afflicted with polio or any genetic disorder could not be confirmed either by his mother or anyone else since there is no well-equipped hospital or a doctor around for about 25,000 people, a majority of them poor Dalits and tribals, living in a cluster of 15 villages in and around Kootathupatti, Vazhapadi block, Salem district.

Sadly, Vignesh is not the sole victim of poor healthcare facilities.

Shocking statistics

A joint micro-level study by CRY (Child Relief and You) and the Salem People Trust on the nutritional status of children in these villages reveals that a shocking 80 per cent, i.e, 291 out of 367 school-going children in the age group of 2 to 10, are underweight. The national average is 30 per cent (2008).

“The village’s primary school has on its rolls 76 children aged 6, of whom 21 have normal weight. The rest 55, including 33 girls, are underweight. Of the total 55 children aged eight, only one has normal weight,” says M. Jayam, director of the Trust.

Of the 291 underweight children, 52 are below 4 kg, 25 weigh 5 kg and 20 are below 6 kg. Eleven of them weigh less than 7 kg. A total of 188 out-of-school children in 0-5 age from 7 villages, including Anuppur, Melakadu, Vilampatti and Kootathupatti, have not been vaccinated.

Underweight and stunted growth are common deficiencies here besides the prevalence of low birth weight. And only a negligible few have been immunised under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

Rare exception

However, 20-year-old Soundarya of Vilampatti, a remote hamlet located at the foothill of Arunoothumalai, happens to be a rare exception. Soundarya says she never takes the risk of skipping a vaccination cycle for her 11-month-old daughter. Her child has been given BCG, Polio, DTPa and Hepatitis B shots. The Village Health Nurse (VHN) is a regular visitor to the hamlet’s Dalit Arunthathiyar colony where she lives.

But not all mothers emulate Soundarya, a school dropout who was married off at the age of 16. “How can we take care of our children when we work the fields from dawn to dusk? They go to school and get mid-day meals,” says Shanthi of Kootathupatti, who has three children two of whom are underweight.

The village cluster has 3,828 children, out of the total population of 25,000. Lack of adequate healthcare facility at Kootathupatti and non-availability of potable water are main reasons behind the chronic health issues.

“Upgrade HSC”

Villagers want the Kootathupatti Health Sub-Centre (HSC) to be upgraded to PHC. Deputy Director of Health Jagadeeshkumar points out that the HSC is functioning well with adequate staff and villagers need to make use of it. “For a PHC, we need a minimum of 30,000 population. But, I will send the proposal to the government as a special case,” he says.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National

It is not only to a particular state or a village but almost half of our country is reeling into this problem. Not only affects the pregnant women also early stages of child’s growth, especially the damage to brain is irreparable.
India is facing severe agricultural problem resulting from having one of the lowest crop productivity. This puts great stress on the food supply for the growing population making food less affordable and creating malnutrition among the masses, especially in children and low-income groups.

Instead of taking proper steps we are trying to promote organic farming in India, Organic farming is universally recognized to reduce crop productivity per acre for the farmers and to increase food cost to the consumers.

Already the country is way short of food supply. Organic farming will only aggravate it. It appears people are mortally afraid of pesticides, which are only medicines for plant diseases. We must regulate their use by enforcement,banning will not solve.

from:  Madhavan
Posted on: Jul 6, 2012 at 07:23 IST
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor








Recent Article in Tamil Nadu

Midnight heist at bank in Krishnagiri

 In a major midnight heist, burglars struck at the Bank of Baroda branch at Kundarapalli here in the early hours of Saturday and decamped... »