'Child deaths in Raichur not due to malnutrition'

'Child deaths in Raichur not due to malnutrition'

DLSA, chaired by Raichur Sessions Judge S N Kempagoudar, has said the children who had died were born out of consanguineous marriages and that parents in Raichur — dubbed as ‘mini Somalia’ — usually married even before they turned 15.

The judge observed that the children’s parents had no medical records and it was difficult to ascertain whether they had approached any hospital or not, because of superstitious beliefs. “Illiteracy is also another factor,” the judge states in the report.

The DLSA, which was directed by the High Court to investigate into the malnutrition cases in Raichur, submitted its report on October 21.

Judge Kempagoudar stated in the report that he had visited the homes of the affected families and ascertained that the children, who were cross-legged, suffered either from diabetes or orthopaedic diseases, or in some instances calcium deficiency.

The DLSA has prepared a work plan to conduct health awareness programmes in the affected villages.

While officials of the departments concerned are rushing to Raichur to address the malnutrition issue, it is interesting to note that the district is in the  seventh place with respect to malnourished children.

Bagalkot has the highest number of severely malnourished children. Out of a total 1.3 lakh children in the district, 7,801 of them fall in this category. The other districts with a high number of malnourished children are Gadag – 4.02%; Haveri – 3.72%; Koppal – 3.23%; Dharwad – 3.20%; Bijapur – 2.99%; Bellary – 2.52%, followed by Raichur with 2.25% of malnourished children.

In order to address the disorder in the entire State, the committee constituted by the government (following the HC directive), has decided to weigh all children who are between the ages 0 and 6 years routinely.

Nutritional level

According to officials in the Department of Women and Child Welfare, there are around 60 lakh children who fall in this age group, out of which around 38 lakh of them are enrolled in anganwadi centres.

Till date, only children in anganwadis were being weighed to assess their nutritional levels.

Of the 34,92,164 children weighed in the State till September this year, 63.66 per cent are said to be ‘normal’; 34.59 per cent of the children ‘moderately underweight’, and 1.75 per cent ‘severely underweight’. It has also been decided to supply nutritious food and medical care to children who are found to be severely underweight.

Here, the assistance of the RDPR department will be taken to organise village meetings, where children can be weighed together on a specified date.

The committee has also decided to constitute three sub-committees – on health and nutrition, a convergence and monitoring, and a committee to give special prominence to children of socially exploited communities.

The committee is also seriously contemplating supplying high-protein foods to children who are presently being given bisibele bath, kesari bath, energy food and popcorn.

While it has been decided to supply egg and milk to children in Raichur, the sub-committee on health and nutrition is exploring the possibility of supplying sprouts or groundnut and jaggery, or semolina and jaggery to children across the State.

Officials said egg was not a popular choice in most anganwadis, and to substitute it, the department may supply double the quantity of milk to children.

The government is spending Rs 4 per child presently. If additional food items are to be supplied, officials say the unit cost has to be increased. The sub-committee has to furnish its report on November 15.