Gwalior, Leaders of various political parties along with activists and film personalities have expressed concern for millions of malnourished children in Madhya Pradesh and have vowed to fight it.
Around 78,000 children in the state are suffering from acute malnutrition and half of them may die in the next five years, observed an activist accompanying the members of Citizen Alliance, who are visiting the villages in Madhya Pradesh to assess malnourishment among children and ways to combat it.
"We have started an important task necessitated by the figures of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) - III, which puts Madhya Pradesh on top as far as child malnourishment is concerned," said Congress MP Sachin Pilot, who was part of a visiting team here last week that also included upcoming Bollywood artistes, young MPs and media persons.
The team visited Neemchandwa, Rampuira and Patai, which are dominated by impoverished Sahariya tribals.
Those who embarked on a countrywide tour to study various nutrition schemes of the government included Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shahnawaz Hussain, Jay Panda of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Supriya Sule of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), ghazal singer Penaz Masani and actress Gauri Kartik. Veteran journalist Neerja Chowdhry also accompanied the team.
According to a survey by the health ministry, around 48 percent of India's children and 60 percent of the state in 0-6 years age group are malnourished.
It also indicates that the number of undernourished children below three years has increased in the past few years despite a host of government schemes and ample funds. If the poor hygienic condition and illiteracy among women were the main factors contributing to the menace, glitches were also found in the implementation of schemes.
The anganwadis, which handle health and nutrition of children under six years, are in disarray. In Rampur village, 96 of the 102 children were malnourished. In Patai village, even essential medicines were not found at the health centre.
"We together have to see all the aspects where the lacunae is because neither are our policies bad nor the money allocated less," said Pilot.
The MPs' team had taken a look at the functioning of the mid-day meal and anganwadi schemes, vaccinations and supply of medicines and also interacted with the villagers and local officials to find out the reason for malnourishment despite huge government funds sanctioned.
"Capacity building, resource allocation and growth of existing networks to tackle malnutrition among children appear to be the need of the hour. Awareness should be created among women and support should also be solicited from non-government organisations and self-help groups having better reach in rural India," Panda opined.
"So stark is the situation that one evaluation report has said that even if the children were saved, they may go blind due to lack of vitamin A," claims Sachin Kumar Jain, an activist fighting alleged negligence in government departments.
"In the last two years, malnutrition - an indicator of human underdevelopment - has been on the rise in Madhya Pradesh. According to data collected a few months ago by the state government's own Bal Sanjeevani Abhiyan scheme, 80,000 children are suffering from severe malnutrition and are on the verge of death," he asserted.