PATIYA'S STARVELINGS
Down To Earth|September 01, 2021
It is important to probe further when an effective system fails to rescue the malnourished children in a village
RAJAT SINGH YADAV AND BHARTI KUMARI

UNLIKE OTHER children his age, 20-month-old Nilesh Ramesh Savalkar of Patiya village in Amravati district of Maharshtra has not learnt to run around the house or grab for things. Instead, he sleeps most of the day and complains of a persistent pain in legs and joints. Nilesh’s mother fervently prays for his recovery. His father though is indifferent, calling his condition a typical case of sukhti that will go away with time. Sukhti is a severe form of malnutrition in which the child develops “acute muscle wasting” that eventually affects growth and development.

Cases of malnutrition are not new to Amravati. The burden is particularly high in the blocks of Dharni and Chikhaldhara that are part of Melghat region, a difficult to reach hilly, forest area inhabited by tribal communities. Chronic malnutrition and child mortality rate from the region had prompted the Maharashtra government in 2013-14 to introduce a slew of measures, including a three-tier system, to improve nutrition status of children. Apart from the anganwadis or rural child care centres that are present in every village under the Centre’s Integrated Child Development Services and provide nutrition supplements to children and monitor their growth, the state has set up 24,167 nutrition rehabilitation centres (NRCS ) and village council of development committees (VCDCS ). While NRCS ensure proper food to children with severe acute malnutrition, monitor their height and weight, and counsel caregivers on nutrition; VCDCS focus on rehabilitation by admitting such children to monitor food uptake.

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