Lalit Shastri

Emphasis on involving people’s representatives to face the challenge

BHOPAL: A Right to Food Campaign support group here has raised the issue of “13 malnutrition deaths” in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, the worst-hit State with 60 per cent children suffering from malnutrition.

Talking to The Hindu on Friday, Sachin Kumar Jain of Vikas Samvad, an NGO working with M.P. Lok Sangharsh Sajha Morcha, another NGO, said there are huge gaps and the interventions to combat the problem of malnutrition have not delivered the desired results.

He said: “Madhya Pradesh presents a sad picture of chronic hunger and an administrative system that lacks accountability.” Citing the National Family Health Survey-3, he said a Supreme Court order of 2005 said every habitat should have an anganwadi. Presently, there are thousands of settlements and villages without anganwadis, nutritious food, and educational activities for children. Only 36.7 per cent children in the State are receiving food supplements in anganwadis. The Integrated Child Development Services scheme does not reach about 50 percent children and 70 percent pregnant and lactating mothers. It is due to these gaps that we have a situation like in Satna where more than a dozen deaths due to malnutrition have been reported in a short span of two months, he added.

According to Mr. Jain, the State government has been experimenting with one or the other scheme to face the challenge of malnutrition. Supplementary nutritious food scheme under the ICDS programme has been altered four times since 2002. Its implementation was entrusted to the women’s self help groups (SHGs) in 2002-03 and soon thereafter, it was privatised and tenders for Rs.113 crore were floated. However, the SHGs were again involved after privatisation failed. The “matra sahyog samitis” that were later given this task ended up with charges of corruption and the scheme was once again altered. He said a survey conducted by their organisation in 19 districts showed that no supplementary nutritious food was supplied to anganwadis for 15 days in June and for 7 days in July. The Madhya Pradesh Assembly Committee for Women and Child Development and the Assembly Committee for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare met here on Friday and members discussed malnutrition with the UNICEF and other U.N. organisations. In a special message, Assembly Speaker stressed the need for building greater awareness. The legislators present were also unanimous in their view that there should be greater effort to build public awareness on the issue of malnutrition with the involvement of people’s representatives, government agencies and other support groups.