The Madhya Pradesh governments Health Department runs nutrition rehabilitation centres (NRCs) with technical assistance from the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF). Critically malnourished children are admitted to NRCs for nutritional rehabilitation.
Children are kept at the centres for 14 days and later subjected to a four-stage follow-up to prevent them from getting malnourished again. However, according to reports, the NRCs often function at below par levels. One such NRC in Jawa block of Rewa district, which this correspondent visited, had only 10 beds.
This means only that many children can be admitted at a time and all others have to be sent back. I took my son to the NRC but was told there is no room, and so had to come back, says Raghuvansh, a tribal man from Ramnagar whose one-year-old son Amar suffered from Grade-3 malnutrition.
What is of concern is that the NRC is a Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric & Neonatal Care (CEMONC) centre. This means it has to have a gynaecologist, a paediatrician and an anaesthetist at all times, which it did not. If a CEMONC centre is in such a state, the condition of other NRCs in the district can be imagined.
The block NRC is too ill-equipped and understaffed to address the problem effectively. The infant mortality rate here could be anywhere around 85-90. The worst part is that the Ministry of Women and Child Development seems to be running only on paper, said Block Medical Officer M.K. Pandey.
Further, while malnutrition is a district-wide phenomenon, out of the nine blocks in Rewa district only four Jawa, Teothar, Mauganj and Sirmour have an NRC.
According to Dr Tania Goldner, head of the Madhya Pradesh UNICEF office, UNICEF supported the setting up of NRCs in Guna and Shivpuri districts. Subsequently, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) set up 200 NRCs all over the State. UNICEF provides technical assistance in the form of training to medical staff, paramedical staff and caretakers, and strategic supplies like electronic weighing scales, information panels, length boards, and so on.
The anganwadi centres run by the WCD Department are also in a state of despair. Anganwadis this correspondent visited in the Bundelkhand region revealed a system crumbling under the burden of feudal practices and excessive discrimination against children of socially disadvantaged sections.
According to the monthly progress report of the ICDS available on the WCD Department website, out of the 73,831 anganwadi centres in the State, 70,813 are operational. Only 69,714 of them have anganwadi workers.
Further, while 392 posts of Child Development Project Officer have been sanctioned for the State, only 279 have been filled. Again, out of the sanctioned 121 posts of assistant CDPOs, only 42 have been filled.
Asked about the malnutrition epidemic in the State, corruption in the department and steps taken by the government to address these, State Women and Child Development Minister Ranjana Baghel said the government had declared a war against malnutrition and that reports of corruption in the department were unfounded.Mahim Pratap Singh