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Maharashtra: Hunger kills 500 kids yearly in Melghat

CNN-IBN
Oct 21, 2011 at 06:52pm IST

Mumbai: A CNN-IBN special report shows how, Maharashtra, one of India's high growth states, is also home to a district that is in the grip of malnutrition. Melghat in Amravti district in Maharashtra has been losing more than one child a day for the last 20 years to malnutrition.

The government figures say 266 children have died in the last 4 months but these figures could be much higher.

Pramila, a villager in Hira Bambai, is too numb to mourn. Her two-year-old daughter starved to death in September. She walked 14 kilometer to the closest primary health centre but her child was declared dead on arrival.

A few huts away from Pramila's house lives a disabled man, Sitaram, who is struggling to feed his family of five. His son Ritesh is six but is so malnourished and stunted that he looks no more than three.

"I don't know what is wrong. He has become like a stick," Sitaram says.

In September 2011, in reply to a PIL, the state told the Bombay High Court that 14,500 children in Melghat are malnourished and that 266 had died in the last 4 months.

"Government for them (Melghat villagers) is a curse because you (government) don’t take care of their dignity," Sheela Barse, who had filed the PIL, says.

At the health centre in Melghat the equipments lie unused as there is no one to man them. In fact, there is not a single special paediatrician in the entire district.

Doctor Aashish Satav working in Melghat says, "Most of the schemes are on paper. They are not reaching the beneficiaries, like availability of the medicines."

Interestingly, Melghat has 320 villages, but what's baffling is as an RTI reveals that there are 370 NGOs registered in the area. With the stated purpose of battling malnutrition come huge funds, big donors. But some activists point out that several among the NGOs are politicians.

But the tragedy of Melghat isn't just the lack of healthcare. With large part of the region denied access to power or clean drinking water, these are India's forgotten children.

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