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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Child Deaths in Satna

Child Deaths in SatnaUnaccountability of the State
Destiny Of Children ?
Inspite of various promising programs to ensure the better growth and survival of our children, continuous deaths of children due to malnutrition have been encountered in Satna and today the numbers of children died reaches to 15. And the role of Government is merely that of a silent spectator. Moreover, the steps taken by Government to check the situation are just the formal one. Simply organizing health camps or allocating supplementary nutrients to Anganwadi centers after the death of innocent children cannot help in any way to sort the giant problem of Malnutrition!

This is not the tragedy of only Satna but most of the tribal districts of the State viz. Jhabua, Sheopur, khandwa, Dindauri, Sidhi, Panna etc. are facing the problem of child death due to malnutrion continuously for past few years. In order to analyse the ground realities of the continuous child deaths in Satna a group social wokers from Madhya Pradesh Lok Sangharsh Sajha Manch (MPLSSM)and Right to Food Campaign decided to penetrate into the villages of the District on a fact-finding mission. The team continuously tried to wake up the Government of the deep slumber of carelessness and irresponsibility but it’s surprising that no firm steps are still taken to restore the situation. The following document depicts the current picture of alnutrition and also presents the severity of the situation in Satna.
According to the data of National Family Health Survey-3, about 60% of the total child population in Madhya Pradesh is malnourished but the State Government is claiming that the percent of under-nourished children has decreased to 47.14% If we analyse the field situation, the reality is far worst than we see in the reports. Almost 60%-70% of the children in the villages of Madhya Pradesh are facing the agony of Malnourishment. The severity of the situation can be gauged by the fact that13 children of Satna district lost their lives due to malnourishment and out of these, 7 children were just from Hardua and Nakjhir villages of the. But as usual, the Government was not aware of the critical situation until a group of curious social wokers from Right to Food Campaign and Madhya Pradesh Lok Sangharsh Sajha Manch decided to penetrate into the villages on a fact-finding mission. The team visited the villages Hardua and Nakjhir in Puraina Panchayat of Uchhehera Block in District Satna. No employment opportunities, no health facilities, proper education is lacking and bad roadways all these conditions clearly picture that these villages are still lagging far behind in the process of development. Following issues were identified in during the visit—
Living Status
The villages are surrounded by forests and rocky mountains, making rocks the cheapest and easily available resource to construct their houses most of the villagers are having homes made of stones. These houses are too cold in winter and too hot in summer. The area is facing the plight of drought for last 4 years due to which the climate is hotter than usual and in such situation the scorchingheat of summer makes it tougher to live in rocky houses. There are only two hand pumps in these villages as the source of drinking water which is not enough to support all the families. The villagers use to fetch water from ‘Nala’[Seasonal resource of water] 1 km away from the village.
Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is the only major national program addressing the needs of children regarding supplementary nutrition, health care and preschool education under the age of six. The program also extends benefits to adolescent girls, pregnant women and nursing mothers. The order of Supreme Court clearly mentions that the benefits of ICDS must reach to each and every child but even today, after 7 years this could not be achieved. Still there are many children not getting the benefits of Anganwadi Centers. If we take the Uchhehra block of Satna district, we will find that there are 152 Anganwadi centers in the block covering 21380 children. It means that in average 140 children are enrolled in each center while the order of Supreme Court says that only 40-80 children should be enrolled in one center. This shows that there is a need of 267 Anganwadi centers in the block. Further, according to 11th Bal Sanjeevni Abhiyan, there are 28372 children of age group 0-6 years in Uchhehra block. It means still 6992 children of the block are deprived of ICDS benefits. And if we talk about the whole Satna district, we found that the number of children not getting the services of Anganwadi center is 70213.
The above facts clearly show how careful the Government is, towards the rights of children and women! The team visited and collected the facts regarding the ICDS services and found that –
• Anganwadi Centre is being run in the Hardua village since December 2007 but still there is no proper space for it.
• The centre is being run at the verandah of Anganwadi Worker’s residence. The space is not sufficient to accommodate all the children with comfort.
• There is no proper arrangement for drinking water, no separate toilets and even no separate space for cooking nutritious food.
• There are 102 children inboth the villages but only 77 are enrolled in the Anganwadi. Why the rest children are kept deprived of their right, no one knows !
• The children of Nakjhir village hardly reach the Center as it is about half a kilometer far from the village.
• According to the Supreme Court every pregnant woman, every lactating mother and every adolescent girl are having the right to get cooked nutritional supplements from Anganwadi Centers daily BUT it was surprising that the Anganwadi worker was not aware of this rule.
• Only 10 lactating mothers out of 12, 6 pregnant women out of 8 and only 2 adolescent girls of 34 were given the nutritional supplements from the Anganwadi and that’s too uncooked!
• There should be three types of weighing machine at Anganwadi Centre, but at Hardua, there was not even a single machine present. Than how the malnutrition was checked is a question ?
• There was no Growth chart, no playing kit or any other educational materials in the Centre.
Status of Malnutrition
Malnutrition in children begins at birth, or even before. However, it intensifies sharply between the ages of 6 months and three years. If this period of life is neglected, very little can be made up later. The immune system of a malnourished child weakens making him more susceptible to a number of diseases which ultimately results in end of the life. Total 102 children of age-group 0-6 years are there in both the villages but only 77 are enrolled in the Anganwadi Centre which shows that still 25 children are deprived of the benefit. And those enrolled were not weighed since January. Children were last weighed during the 11th Balsanjeevni Abhiyan but what have done for the under weight children, no one knows!
The continuous deaths of malnourished children finally got noticed by the Government and a Team (including BMO, CDPOand others) reaches the villages to analyse the situation. All the children of both the villages were weighed and according to the Team only 4 children were found to be severely malnourished while the Anganwadi register showed that 8 (5 of Hardua and 3 of Nakjhir) are malnourished! Moreover, 5 children from these villages were referred to NRC, Satna by the Team. Here it is quite confusing that how many children are really malnourished? As every time the Departments are presenting a new data of children suffering malnourishment !
Again the situation became more surprising when the Right to Food campaign team randomly weighed 52 children and found that 30% children (16 children) were severely malnourished.
How to ensure Right to Food
The option of livelihoods in the village is a big question. Gathering fuel woods and selling it is the main livelihood option of these villagers. The other key source of earning in the villages is illegal stone mines. But both of these options are not available during monsoon seasons. It shows that there is no permanent means of livelihood for thesevillagers to ensure a secure future of their children.
Public distribution System
According to the orders of Supreme Court, the ration shop will open daily for some fixed duration and each family should be given 35kg of ration in installments. But the PDS facility of Hardua and Nakjhir villages is running in accordance to the convenience of Manager. The PDS shop is at Puraina, 2 km from the villages, and remains open occasionally for only one day in a month. Instead of 35 kg ration, the beneficiaries with Antyoday Anaj Yojana card get only 25kg ration and families with BPL cards get 10-15 kg of ration. The area is drought affected; even then there was no supply of ration from February to May 2008 making the life more critical. None of the families have received the benefits of Mukhya Mantri Annapurna Yojana. Also, there are 26 families in these villages which are not given the ration cards till date.
Drought Relief:There are umpteen number of relief measures in Government’s Plan but neither of them reaches the ground to support the communities in trouble. Same is the situation of the poors of Hardua and Nakjhir villages. The area is facing the trouble of drought for past four years but no concrete steps are seen to help the villagers. Though some families of Nakjhir village have got some compensation but there is no certainty in the allocation of the amount.

No guarantee of NREGS: As there is no secure option for a permanent livelihood in the villages, NREGS could be the best solution to ensure the food security in such conditions. But how to secure the regularity of NREGS works is a big hitch. The NREGS has been running in the villages for last two years but in these two years villagers have received employment for just two days instead of 200 days and the interesting thing is that the entries in the Job card shows the employment of 14 days. The villagers are not getting the work inspite of their regular demands. Moreover, there are 20 beneficiaries still awaiting there enrolment for job cards.

No Mid Day Meal:Both the villages fall under the Drought affected areas and according to the orders of Supreme Court, MDM facility should be continued in the summer vacation also in drought affected areas. But in Nakjhir there was no MDM availability the whole summer and even the villagers were not aware about this benefit. Villagers told that the MDM facility was irregular throughout the past year.
No Social Security: The beneficiaries of these villagers are far from the benefits of Social security pension. No one, even the most eligible beneficiaries are not getting any pension, told the villagers of Hardua and Nakjhir. The fact finding team listed 12 beneficiaries not getting there right of social security. All these ground realities clearly shows the status of Right to Food in these villages and that why the chronic hunger is a prevailing issue in tribal areas. The poor economy of households ultimately results in malnourishment of children and finally Death of children. But that is where it ended. No solutions are found. There is nothing concrete in the wake of lip sympathy.
Reality of Balsanjeevni Abhiyan
If we take the report of 11th Balsanjeevni Abhiyan1 3, 18,371 children were weighed out of which only 2941 children were found to be malnourished. The report says that the severely malnutrition in the District Satna is 0.92% and normal malnutrition is 50.08% while in the very next page of the same report, the percentage of severe malnutrition suddenly decreases to 0.80%! Now if we calculate the number of children malnourished according to Balsanjeevni report, it comes 2557 if 0.92% is taken as the severe malnutrition percentage in the District and the number decreases to 2173 if the 0.80% is the percentage of severe malnutrition. This clearly shows that the Government is directly vanishing off 384 children out of the records. This is the reality of Balsanjeevni Abhiyan—the promising program to eradicate child malnutrition…. or eradicating Children itself?
Our Efforts
The M.P. Lok Sangharsh sajha Manch and Right to Food campaign suport team analysed the ground realities, collected the related facts and data and took the following steps to find the some suitable solutions for the critical situation:
• Discussed the issues with concerned Departments to find a path so as to overcome the problem.
• Raised and discussed the issues with common mass using Media as a tool.
• Presented the overall scenario to the Advisor to Commissioner of Supreme Court who immediately took a step and forwarded a letter to Collector of Satna asking him for the report including both the immediate steps taken with respect to check the prevailing situation and the longer-term measures taken to properly redress the issues in the district till 15th July 2008.

Government’s Response

  • Instead of taking some immediate relief measures to cure the situation, the concerned Departments were trying to hide the deaths by simply saying that children died due to diseases and not because of malnourishment.
  • To cope up the critical situation the only immediate step taken by Government is organizing Health Camps, particularly in those villages which were highlighted in media. Is this enough? And what about those villages which were not attended by any fact finding team or media?
  • The Government has got satisfied by supplying only 3 quintals of supplementary nutrition in Anganwadi centers.
  • Not a single authority from Women and Child Development Department has ever visited the affected villages even after the death of 14 children.
  • No follow-up of children relieved from NRC. Though enquiries of concerned District departments were done by Deputy Director Sagar but nothing came out of it. Who knows how authentic the enquiry was?
  • The Collector Mr. Vijayanand Kuril, District Satna visited the villages Hardua and Nakjhir of Uchhehra Block on 15th July 2008. Seeing the ground realities, the Collector announces some benefits to check the deformities—
• 65kg ration to families of children died due to malnourishment.
• Suspension of Puraina Salesman to correct the PDS supply
• Sanctioned fund for Anganwadi and EGS Centres.
• Social Security Pension, NREGS Job cards and Rashion cards allotment to eligible beneficiaries.
• Work order for Plantation and CC road construction were sanctioned.
• Free treatment of weak & malnourished children and landless patients at Nagaud or District health centre.

Here the question arises that were the above steps taken by the government is sufficient to sort such a devastating problem? All these seem merely the shortcuts or the tricks of Government to tackle the overwhelming situations. If this is not so, than what about the children dying in villages other than Hardua and Nakjhir ?
Manisha died in village Sua Pahadi, Suken and DayaRam died in village Ram Khokhla, these villages’ falls in Majhgawa Block and we would definitely like to add that this is just the number which has come to the notice of the media or the Right to Food Campaign. It means that not only Hardua and Nakjhir but other villages/blocks of the district are equally facing the problem of Malnutrition and children are continuously dying of malnutrition.
The fact finding team visited the village Kirhai-pukhri of Majhgawa block of the district and find that the situations of this village were also more or less the same as that of Hardua and Nakjhir. The village is included in Singhpur Panchayat and 35 families of Mawasi tribe reside here. Almost all of them are landless and totally depend on wages for there livelihood. Following issues were identified in the village:
  • NREGS work is not going on in the village for about last two months because of some clashes between sarpanch (RamaSingh Verma) and secretary (Munna) of the village.
  • The last NREGS works of Well construction and Pond Renovation were completed about two months before but the payment is yet pending.
  • Villagers tried thrice to get the payment but every time they were told that the person responsible for payment has not arrived.
  • There is no Anganwadi Centre in the village. The children and women have to go to AWC worker’s residence at Patiyan village (5 km from kirhai-pukhri) every Tuesday to collect the supplementary nutrition.
  • Health facility is hard to achieve for the elders as well as children of the village. ANM doesn’t use to come to the village whereas villagers have to go to Kurmin-tala (1 km) for vaccination and medical facilities.
  • A health camp was organized in the village on 8th July 2008 in which some of the children were weighed and health checkup of expecting women was done. Three out of all the weighed children were given 5kg daliya each and there parents were told that if the condition of these children doesn’t improves then they should bring those children to the District Hospital. If the condition of these three children was not severe than why they were given daliya and if there condition was severe than why they were not referred to NRC? The team randomly took the weight of 15 children at Kirhai-Pukhri out of which 6 children (60%) were under grade III, 3 children were in II (20%), 5 were in I grade (35%) and only one child was normal. We met the CDPO Mr. Nayan Singh of Majhgawa Block and discussed about the situation but he clearly denies the facts analysed by the team and was trying to prove that the facts and data collected by the team are not authentic. All these conditions clearly predict the irresponsibility of the Government Departments as well as the concerned Authorities. They wake up from the slumber only after the deaths have occurred. Here, the question arises that, instead of hiding or denying the children deaths due to malnutrition or doing patch works to sort the problems temporarily, can’t the Government resurrect the malfunctioning of the system? It is not that the
Government departments are not at all aware of the poor conditions but the Government appears to have resolved to remain a silent spectator. Every time deaths occur in a village, the Government authorities go there and provide medical and nutritional facilities to the people there. Moreover, these facilities are available only to those villages which attain the notice of either any organization/groups working at grass root level or the media. What about those innocent young ones who are not noticed? The problem here is that the government is not taking proper steps to identify such villages in advance. Still the innocent children are continuously facing the threat of loosing life due to Malnutrition

A Report By:

Adivasi Adhikar Manch, Satna
Madhya Pradesh Lok Sangharsh Sajha,Bhopal &
Right to food Campaign support group, Bhopal

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