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Madhya Pradesh Has India's Most Malnourished Kids

If you ask about her child, Sita Devi's eyes well up with tears. A few months ago, her eight-month-old kid died in her arms. Although she managed to take her daughter from her impoverished Sagmal village //to the Barwani District Hospital, it was too late.

'Still we tried our best,' said a senior doctor in the hospital, adding it was a case of severe malnutrition. 'But the child had stopped responding to medicines.'

Thousands of children in Barwani's tribal villages and adjoining districts face similar fate. Grinding poverty, illiteracy and lack of awareness, besides the failure of public health-care system, are making the situation worse, reports Grassroots Features.

The government and other agencies have launched many programmes. However, tribal areas remain largely untouched. The much-hyped Bal Sanjeevni Abhiyan scheme launched in the state has, many say, failed to ensure nutritional security to tribal children.

In August 2006, two-year-old Jyoti Naval Singh died in the district hospital due to acute malnutrition. Her illiterate parents fed the ailing infant a 'sugar solution' they thought would cure her. When her condition deteriorated, on the advice of a NGO they took her to the hospital.

Madhya Pradesh has the largest number of malnourished children in the country, with 80,000 cases of severe malnutrition. The mortality rate is 87 per 1,000 live births, very high compared to the south Indian states. Over 55 percent of the children are born under weight.

According to the women and child welfare department, 1,026 cases of malnutrition were reported from various blocks in Barwani, from January to October 2006. In 2005 the figure was 1,652. Sendhwa and Thikri blocks are worst affected with 266 and 227 cases respectively.

Of these only a few get medical attention.

'Hundreds of deaths due to malnutrition go unreported,' said Val Singh, a tribal activist. Symptoms inc
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