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Only chapatti-salt to eat, malnutrition situation worsens in drought-hit East MP

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malnutrition  Madhya Pradesh  child mortality  drought  Rewa  Satna

Sravani Sarkar

Satna/Rewa: Some smile sheepishly, some become silent while others look around for assurance before responding. But the reply to the question ‘what do you eat daily?’ is chillingly common in drought-hit Rewa and Satna districts of east MP.

It’s chapatti and salt all the way. And the result is there to see. Malnourished children could be detected pretty commonly in most of the villages and though fortunately spate of deaths has not been reported recently, the condition of some of the kids is really worrisome.

Dujiya of Badatalaab in Kilhoura panchayat of Majhgawan (Satna district) holds her 15-month-old extremely skinny daughter Pushpa (15 months) in her lap as she segregates good Tendu leaves at her extremely small and dilapidated shanty.

Pushpa weighs just 4.1 kg and has a shockingly low mid-upper arm circumference of 8.7cm, putting her in the category of severe malnutrition. However, Dujiya is not intent on taking Pushpa to Majhgawan Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre again (she was taken once in November 2015).

The reasons are multiple: Dujiya has five other children and at least two of them are too small to be left without motherly supervision. Staying for a fortnight in NRC would mean loss of livelihood in peak Tendu leaves collection season. Also Dujiya says that during her last trip to NRC, they did not get enough food and they are yet to receive Rs 1080 according to the NRC scheme.

The Mawasi tribe family is extremely impoverished, dependant on manual labour by Dujiya’s husband Rajkumar. The eldest son, 18-year-old Ajay was sent out to work at Ahmedabad just a week ago. But food and nutrition situation is extremely critical.

A little distance away, Romta is another 15-month-old Mawasi girl who is malnourished, but her mother Shyamkali can do little about it as her husband Surjan has gone off to Gujarat to work and she has to take care of another child too. The living condition of the family – a very low-thatched single room with no ventilation- looks extremely unhealthy.

READ THIRD PART OF THIS SERIES: THOUSANDS OF CATTLE DEAD DUE TO SEVERE DROUGHT

There are five malnourished children in the settlement and two more in Tagarpar of same panchayat.

The village has an anganwadi centre, but the villagers claim that the take home ration supply is not so regular for the children below three years of age.

In Kanpur village of Patna Khurd panchayat that saw 22 child deaths within five months (from August to December 2015), there are four malnourished children yet.

malnourished child

In Java block of Rewa district too, malnourished children could be detected in almost village impacted by drought. In Jirouha village of Gedurha panchayat, six-month old Rabita Kol could be instantly detected as moderately malnourished (her upper middle arm circumference was calculated before us). 

READ SECOND PART OF THIS SERIES: NO CROP, NO WORK, MIGRATION IS THE ONLY ANSWER IN MP

At Dabhoura Basti, the anganwadi worker Shakuntala tiwari told us that at least four kids were malnourished, but they were being taken care of.

mother with malnourished child

The stories of the families are almost same. The source of income is manual labour and in many case it comes only when migrated out of state. Women and children are left behind and have to make do with bare necessities. Most families have multiple children and taking one to NRC for rehabilitation is most of time out of question.

The staple food is chapatti and salt for most. Some ‘better-off’ people manage to eat potato or brinjal curry in the name of vegetables twice or thrice every fortnight, but most of them have not even seen, let alone tasted, daal (pulses) for months now.

With crops failing and financial resources at nadir due to lack of local work, the impoverished tribal people in the region are cutting out on their food plate and naturally. With nutrition going for a toss women and children are worst sufferers.

READ FIRST PART OF THE SERIES: LIFE ON EDGE, WOMAN-CHILDREN BEAR THE BRUNT

In some of the villages, the anganwadi centres are working properly, but in some, long distances prevent children and mothers from visiting them. Also the porridge mix given as take home ration for children below 3 years is often consumed only by the elders as mothers feel children do not like it or develop complications like loose motions.

“Most families do not have MNREGS job cards and not enough money to purchase their food from open market. They are dependent on the PDS food grain supply which is not enough for them,” Anand of Adiwasi Adhikar Manch, Satna said.

Satna has under-five mortality rate as high as 130 per 1000 live births according to the Annual Health Survey 2012-13. For Rewa it is 100 per 1000 live births, showing the vulnerability of children in the region. Drought conditions are not helping at all. 

(C) Photos Courtesy: Rakesh Malviya