March 31, 2009



HELP NEEDED: A malnourished three-month-old girl is fed at a rehabilitation center in Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh.

India - A malnourished three-month-old girl is fed at a rehabilitation center in Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh.


According to the Save the Children's statistics, around 3.5 million children die in a year because of malnutrition. In India alone, one million children's lives could be saved every year if they were not malnourished.



IFPRI - International Food Policy Research Institute



2008 India State Hunger Index

Key Findings & Facts



Asian Human Rights Commission - Urgent Appeal






INDIA: Three children died of malnutrition for past two months and four children are currently suffering from malnutrition in Dabhiya village of Madhya Pradesh where children had died of malnutrition in 2008

ISSUES: Right to food; right to health; malnutrition; government neglect

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from a human rights group based in Madhya Pradesh Spandan, Samaj Seva Samiti (Spandan) regarding three children who died of malnutrition. The deceased children lived in Dabhiya village of Khandwa district, where two children had died of malnutrition in 2008. At present, four children living in the same village suffer from severe malnutrition. Sixty two children died of malnutrition associated with various related diseases in the Khandwa district alone. As a result, the state and the district administrative government announced that they would ensure food security and eradicate children's deaths from malnutrition. However, further deaths this year proved that the government has again failed.


Richu Baliram, a two and a half year old girl died of malnutrition on May 10, 2009. She lived in Dabhiya village, Khalwa Block, Khandwa district, Madhya Pradesh. She was admitted for treatment at the Khandwa district Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC).

Richu was admitted to the Khandwa district NRC on May 2, 2009, suffering from grade IV Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), associated with diarrhoea. It was not the first time that she had been taken to the NRC. In September 2008, she was treated for 14 days and discharged. Her condition deteriorated as her family could not afford to provide proper food for her continued recovery. All in all, Richu was admitted four times, once for six days and once for five days. She continued to suffer from malnutrition for almost a year without a full recovery.

Richu's death demonstrates that the NRC returns malnourished children from remote rural areas to the same environment that caused their malnutrition in the first place. Her death also shows that the Anganwadi centre (AC; Child Care Centre) for Dabhiya village failed in its duty of care to continue to provide nutritious food for those children sent back home from the NRC. The AC provides only dried ration as supplementary nutrition for the children in the village. They erroneously presume that all families can afford to give proper food to their malnourished children at home. This practice is widespread in the village with children suffering from malnutrition.

In the same village two more malnourished children died. A two month-old girl Payal Brijlal died on June 19, and 18 month-old Shanta Ramesh died on June 30. The latter suffered from malnutrition associated with measles and respiratory infection.

The inadequate practices of the NRC are seen in the following cases. Ramnarayan Rameshm, was returned home after a 12 day admission period. Ramnarayan, one and a half years old, suffering from grade IV malnutrition associated with respiratory difficulties, was taken to the NRC on September 12, 2008 and discharged on September 24, 2008. He was still suffering from grade III malnutrition. Ramnarayan's parents took him to a private hospital for treatment where his condition did not improve. In early June, as a last resort, he was taken to a person healing through religious methods. A few days ago, Ramnarayan was again admitted to the NRC where he is currently being treated.

At the present time in the village, three more children suffer from malnutrition. Biliya Shivram a two year old girl, Richai Baliram two years old, and Bamcham Radhelal one and a half years old. They suffer from grade III or IV malnutrition. All are severely malnourished.


No substantial improvement in preventing children’s deaths from malnutrition

In a breakthrough in 2008, the state government acknowledged children's deaths from malnutrition. Both the state and the district administrative government had paid more attention to taking care of malnourished children in 2009, particularly during the rainy season from June to September.

In 2008, thousands of malnourished children were taken to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRC) in different districts. According to the announcement this year of the department of Woman and Child Development, parents who have malnourished children are encouraged to take them to the NRC for treatment. But there has been no substantial change in the treatment protocol for malnourished children at the NRC.

Malnourished children are generally admitted for a maximum of fourteen days at the NRC. The treatment consists merely in providing nutrition. It does not render any medical care for diseases or multiple infections associated with malnutrition. During the rainy season, the malnourished children are more vulnerable to related illnesses and infections due to an unhygienic environment. This takes the form of an absence of a proper sanitation system and a clean water supply. The compounded four factors; rainy season, unhygienic environment, diseases and malnutrition, continuously escalate children's deaths in rural areas.

Policy of the NRC is that it looks after SAM but only grades III and IV malnutrition. All other malnourished children in grade I or II are left behind without proper treatment and as a result develop SAM sooner. To prevent further deaths, it is necessary to look after all malnourished children no matter what stage they are in. Should there not be sufficient space to accommodate all children at the NRC, the government should make arrangements with the AC. The AC can provide appropriate nutrition such as Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) or F 100, a preparation of full-fat milk, vegetable oil, peanut butter (only for RUTF) and mineral-vitamin mix, usually recommended for malnourished children.

There are two ACs in Dabhiya village. Each has one worker and one helper. There is a NRC at Khandwa district for malnourished children. There is a Supreme Court Order to ensure food and health security. However, the existence of these systems in itself does not mean that the Government of India, as a state party of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), fulfils its obligations. In fact, the state, district and local facilities fail in their basic functions resulting in poor results and deaths.

No food security at home

If there was enough nutritious food at home, the government would not need to earmark such a substantial budget for malnourished children. All the families of the deceased children, all members of the Korku tribal community, suffer from lack of food at home.

Richu's family has a two acre farm land which is not properly irrigated. The family of four harvest soy beans which are sold at 10 Rupees per kilograms. Her father used to work as a day labourer for 50 rupees a day. Payal's family has no land for farming. The family only gets 20 kilograms of rice and wheat from the ration shop with their Below the Poverty Line ration card (BPL card). 20 kilograms of rice and wheat is consumed by eight family members within a week. Her father also migrates to neighbouring districts like Harda or Hoshangabad twice a year in order to find additional jobs. Shanta's family of four has a one acre farm land. They recently took out a loan of 5,000 rupees to buy food for the home. Her father also migrates for work from time to time.

The villagers from the Korku community, living in a remote rural area, need enough farm land to make a living thus ensuring food security. Without farm land, they cannot afford to provide enough food for their families. And although some have farm land, they do not have irrigation facilities to maximize production. As a result, they are forced every year to migrate to find work.

The ration distribution under the Public Food Distribution System (PDS) does not reach the tribal communities in rural areas. Despite the fact that the Korku community in the village continue to face a lack of food and child malnutrition, they do not have the priority to obtain a ration card AAY card for the poorest among the poor (For details on living condition of Korku community, please refer to
previous hunger alert and statement). As shown in the case of Payal's family, BPL card holders pay about five rupees for one kilogram of wheat and seven rupees for one kilogram of rice. In Madhya Pradesh, BPL card holders are supposed to collect 20 kilograms per month which only lasts for a week or so. In practice, it can be seen that for the last two years, the actual number of BPL families are far more than the quota that the central government has assigned. The state government cut down the amount of earmarked grains, which is supposed to be 35 kilograms of rice (15 kilograms) and wheat (20 kilograms), in order to meet the needs of all the card holders.

The current market price of wheat in Khandwa district is about 12 rupees per kilogram and 20 rupees per kilogram for rice. All these families who have already lost children or may lose children soon cannot afford to buy grain in the market. They even find it difficult to buy broken rice or wheat which costs half the price of normal grain. The price for broken grain is also rising as the demand goes up.


Website Link Includes AHRC Suggested Actions:




----- Original Message -----


To: WUNRN ListServe

Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 6:11 PM

Subject: India - Malnutrition - Women & Girls - Gender Inequality





The Hunger Project






The exceptionally high rates of malnutrition in South Asia are rooted deep in the soil of inequality between men and women. — UNICEF, "The Asian Enigma", The Progress of Nations, 

The vicious cycle of malnutrition among the women of rural India perpetuates the equally vicious cycle of persistent hunger and poverty for all rural Indians.

India has the second worst rate of child malnutrition in the world, just behind Bangladesh. Low birth weight and child malnutrition are the primary determinants of ill-health and diminished capacity throughout life.

When children are born malnourished and underweight, they are at severe risk in all areas of personal development, health and mental capacity. They are physically weak and lack resistance to disease. They face a lifetime of disabilities, a lowered capacity for learning and diminished productivity.

The cost to India of this deficiency, solely in economic terms, has been estimated to be as much as US$28 billion per year in reduced GDP. This is greater than India’s total annual public expenditures on nutrition and health combined.

This reality is a clear and direct result of the subjugation, marginalization and disempowerment of women throughout their lives.

We should not need to focus exclusively on women as mothers in order to be committed to transforming their status. Yet, in their role as mothers, they do represent the most critical link in the chain of human well-being and development.

It is widely recognised that the health and nutritional status of a pregnant woman dramatically affects the health of her baby. A more accurate scientific understanding, however, reveals that this is only part of the story. The truth is that a woman’s health, from the time she is in her own mother’s womb, is the single most important factor in determining the health of her child.

With this knowledge, it is clear that traditional responses to child malnutrition, such as simply providing nutritional supplements to pregnant women, are both inadequate and ultimately futile. If India is to interrupt the cycle of persistent hunger, the lifetime health and nutritional status of women must improve dramatically.

This, in turn, means transforming the way women are treated in the family and society as a whole:


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