Even as 1,700 kids starved to death in last one year, electronic machines supposed to be provided by the state to weigh them are either inaccurate or absent, officials claim
Even as the metropolis is spending enormously to wipeout malaria, typhoid and other diseases from within city limits, villages and tribal areas beyond are ailing with emaciated children.
Latest reports from Nashik cite that there are 16,662 severely malnourished children and 18,228 moderately malnourished children between 0-6 years of age.
The state sanctioned Rs 1.66 crore for 4,631 electronic weighing
machines for Nashik, which fall short of the requirement of the
4,776 anganwadis in the district
These undernourished children, living in tribal and non-tribal villages, are roughing it out in unhygienic conditions, with little to eat.
The scarcity and hard life claimed 1,104 children in tribal areas and 619 in non-tribal areas in the district between August 2010 and August 2011.
In a monthly report presented by the zilla parishad in August, a majority of the malnourished children come from interior and tribal hamlets.
The total population of children in the 0-6 age group is 4,49,363 of which 4,30,223 have been weighed, said. the report (see table).
The want of weighing machines and their reported inaccuracy only compounds the problem, officials said.
The State Women and Child Development department sanctioned Rs 1.66 crore for 4,631 electronic weighing machines for Nashik, which fall short of the requirement of the 4,776 anganwadis in the district.
Moreover, while the machines have not reached most of the anganwadis yet, claim officials, those that are there give inaccurate measurements, defeating the purpose they were bought for.
"Some weighing machines have been sent to anganwadis, but we are waiting for more to arrive. These electronic machines would provide accurate data as opposed to the weighing scales that were used earlier.
One cannot tamper with this data," said Sangita Patil, chairperson of the Women and Child Welfare committee in the district.
MiD DAY found that most of the anganwadis in Harsul taluka, which has a large population of malnourished children, did not have these electronic machines. Only the primary health centre in Shirasgaon village had them, but they had precision problems.
A doctor on duty there said on the condition of anonymity, "The last three digits of the figure the new weighing machine displays are always rounded off to multiples of 100, which isn't accurate.
For example, if a child weighs 2 kilos and 556 grams, the machine would show 2 kilos 500 grams. So we have to revert to using the normal weighing scale."
The collector of Nashik, P Velrasu, is of the opinion that there is no holistic approach to deal with chronic malnutrition. Children are taken care of only up to the age of six, while adolescent girls, who also need supervision, are left unto their own devices.
"The girls, who are very weak and show a poor haemoglobin count, get married at a young age. On top of that they labour in the fields even when they six or seven months into pregnancy. So their babies are born unhealthy.
The department needs to tend to these girls right from childhood, through adolescence until after motherhood. Their children should also be taken care of."
Asked about the disturbing number of malnourished kids, the collector said, "Although the numbers of deaths have reduced, the method of measuring malnourishment has changed.
Earlier, the grading system classified children under grades 1, 2, 3, 4, grade 1 being the healthiest. Now they are classified as normal, moderately malnourished, and severely malnourished. So the numbers in a single category have increased."
He added that the welfare scheme should be a continuous process. The system of restoring the health of one batch of children and leaving them on their own should be avoided.
Ranjit Kumar, CEO of the zilla parishad, said, "The machines are being supplied as per orders from higher authorities, and they have been working fine so far. I will check with the department about the problems."
What is starvation?
It is a severe reduction in vitamin, nutrient and
energy intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death. The term inanition refers to the symptoms and effects of starvation. The WHO also states that malnutrition is by far the biggest contributor to child mortality, present in half of all cases.
What is malnutrition?
As per World Health Organisation, malnutrition essentially means bad nourishment. It concerns not enough as well as too much food, the wrong types of food, and the body's response to a wide range of infections that result in mal-absorption of nutrients or the inability to use nutrients properly to maintain health. Clinically, malnutrition is characterised by inadequate or excess intake of protein, energy, and micronutrients such as vitamins, and the frequent infections and disorders that result. The state has adopted WHO's definition for its purposes.