State government declares cash prizes for villages that prevent malnutrition deaths between November 14 and April 6; a defunct campaign for childbirth and neonatal care will also be revived 

In a bid to combat the pervasive menace of malnutrition in the state, the health department is launching a campaign on October 2, in course of which cash prizes will be awarded to villages that manage to keep themselves malnutrition-free for the duration between November 14 and April 6 every year.

The two chosen dates have symbolic import -- while November 14 is celebrated as Children's Day every year, the latter, April 6, is observed as World Health Day.

Curbing hunger: The campaign is part of the state government's efforts
to eradicate malnourishment from the state, after an escalation of
malnutrition deaths was reported. File pic

The villages ranking first, second and third will be awarded cash prizes of Rs 1 lakh, Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 respectively.

Following MiD DAY's sustained reporting on malnutrition deaths in the state earlier this month, the Minister for Women and Child Development, Prof Varsha Gaikwad, was understood to have taken serious cognizance of the issue, bringing it to the notice of the state health department.

The government has also decided to revive the Rajmata Jijau Mother-Children Health and Nutrition Mission, which has become near obsolete, after it was inaugurated amidst much fanfare in March 2005. Under this initiative, attempts will be made to improve the quality of infrastructure for childbirth, post-natal and neonatal care for both mother and child, in the public health care system.

The statewide campaign comes in the wake of the recent escalation of malnutrition cases reported in the state - the latest figures, recorded till June 2011, indicate that 9.73 lakh children were found underweight, while an additional 1.26 lakh were critically underweight (Report available with MiD DAY).

Malnourishment deaths, which are caused by a drastic deterioration of the child's immune system owing to severe malnutrition, has also been on the rise in the state. In June 2011 alone, 1,525 children, aged less than one year, and another 421 aged less than six years, died of malnutrition.