Malnutrition deaths, which are common in Africa, have begun to haunt India's financial capital, Mumbai. The metro which is also the capital of the western Indian state of Maharashtra has recorded a death because of malnutrition.
A six-month-old baby died because of malunitrition last week, Maharashtra Health Officials told reporters. The child belonged to a family that lives in a tribal settlement in the western Suburbs.
Two more cases of malnutrition have also been reported. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Medical Officer Mahadev Kamble certified twins—Rohit and Rohini (both seven years old)—as "severely malnourished".
"These children are severly malnourished and anaemic, suffering from vomiting and diarrhea. They need to be rushed to hospital immediately," he said.
Social workers alleged that there are atleast two cases of malnutrition in each of the 27 tribal settlements.
Statistics relating to the state-run Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) suggest that there were 14 children suffering from Grade III and IV malnutrition (acute under- nutrition) in western suburbs. Taking Mumbai as a whole, a total of 501 children are said to be of under-nutrition as of May.
"Malnutrition cases from the tribal pockets of Aarey (in western suburbs) are reported quite often," Director of Health Services Pakash Doke said.
The state is planning to provide supplementary food to children suffering from malnutrition, he added.
Rohit's father Risha Gohrat, a daily wage labourer, earns Rs 70-100 a day and sustains a family of seven. Ironically, Gohrat was not too keen on taking the twins to the doctor either. He noted that to reach the closest hospital from his place he would have had to spend about Rs 30.
"I cannot afford to go there or even spend money to buy medicine. Else, we have to go without food for that day," he said.
His next door neighbour Litu Shingare's one-year-old son Mangesh has also been suffering from diarrhoea and fever for the last one month.
"Local doctors say he is malnourished but I cannot afford to take him to a big hospital". So he has resorted to self-medication. "At times, the state-run Aarey Hospital shoos away patients as soon as they realise they are malnourished," alleges Ashok Khandvi, president of the Shramik Mukti Sangh of Aarey.
Acute poverty and lack of work has driven many families towards malnutrition in the past, added Khandvi. As for solutions, Doke explains how they are working on an arrangement with the BMC to empower doctors at health posts to go and check for malnourishment on a routine basis.