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Madhya Pradesh presents ‘grim’ picture of public health

Bhopal, Feb 23 (IANS) Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lauded the ‘compassionate’ governance of its Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan at its Indore meeting last week, a human rights group said Madhya Pradesh was a state where 71.4 percent tribal children were malnourished and 82.5 percent anaemic.

In its recent report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) also added that 43 children had died of malnutrition in just three tribal villages in the last three months.

The ALRC – which has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – has written that in Madhya Pradesh the mortality rate among tribal children under the age of five is far higher than the state and national average.

Noting the conditions of mass deprivation, especially hunger, malnutrition and distress migration in Madhya Pradesh, the report states that the chances of survival of a tribal child in the state are low, with 71.4 percent tribal children being malnourished and 82.5 percent being anaemic.

The ALRC and its sister organisation, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), reporting on the situation of child malnutrition and its causes in four tribal-dominated districts – Khandwa, Rewa, Sidhi, and Jhabua – since 2009, also note the mismatch in the number of below poverty line (BPL) families in the state.

‘While the central government claims that there were 4.2 million BPL families in the state, according to the state, the number is 6.5 million, meaning that 2.3 million families in Madhya Pradesh are denied BPL status,’ the report says.

It states that while 67 percent of the people in Madhya Pradesh live below the poverty line, 60 percent of the children are undernourished, 73.9 percent tribal women are anaemic and health services accounts for merely 2.4 percent of the state budget.

‘Add to it, one bed is available for every 2,425 persons in hospitals and more than 1,300 out of 5,005 doctors’ posts are vacant. Although child malnutrition has increased over the last five years, not even one primary health centre (PHC) has been built and 1,659 out of 4,708 medical officer posts remain vacant at the centres,’ says the report.

Madhya Pradesh has repeatedly been in the news for acute malnutrition among children and other distress conditions like loss of livelihood and cases of human rights violation, says Seema Prakash of Spandan, an organisation working on malnutrition in Khandwa.

‘This is not the first time that the grim public health situation in the state has been exposed. The National Family Health Survey-III (NFHS-III) has also brought out a similar picture,’ Anandi Lal of the Satna-based Adiwasi Adhikar Manch told IANS.

‘According to NFHS-III, 60 percent of the children in the 0-3 years category in Madhya Pradesh are malnourished, with 82.6 percent children in the same age group being anaemic. The infant mortality rate (IMR) in the state stands at 70/1,000, while IMR for tribal areas is 95.6/1,000.’

‘The less than satisfactory functioning of the state Women and Child Development Department, visible in the poor performance of anganwadi centres in addressing malnutrition in rural areas, has only aggravated the problem,’ added Seema Jain of the Right to Food Campaign.

At its Indore conclave, party leader Sushma Swaraj praised Chouhan for providing a ‘compassionate’ government in the state and said his record on social infrastructure should be recorded in the party documents.

(Sanjay Sharma can be contacted at sanjay.s@ians.in)

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