Mumbai: It's called a 'bamboolance' by locals - a makeshift ambulance in Nandurbar district in Maharashtra. For ailing villagers, it's the only mode to reach the nearest primary health centre which is a good 25 kilometers away. Poor healthcare and child malnutrition continue to plague large parts of rural Maharashtra. And this sore sight was on display, even as UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi arrived in another part of the state to launch a child healthcare scheme under the Centre's National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
Latest figures on child deaths due to malnutrition are shocking. In Nandurbar alone, 5,348 children have died in the last four years. Across the state 1,17,000 children have died in the same period. According to the state's own health report, 36 out of every 1000 children die before the age of five.
In addition to Nandurbar, Chandrapur, Amravati, Gadhchiroli and Thane - where Sonia launched her initiative - are the worst affected districts. The Centre spends Rs 1280 crore each year on child nutrition but on the ground, there has been little impact.
With the State and Centre unable to contain malnutrition or redress basic healthcare issues, starving children and 'bamboolances' will remain symbols of a collapsing healthcare system.