If the administration of the malnutrition-hit Melghat region
in Maharashtra is to be believed, the region has seen a marginal decline in infant mortality
rate (IMR) and child mortality rate (CMR) as compared to 2009-10.

The infant mortality rate has come down from 54 to 48.19 per
1,000 babies, while child mortality rate has declined to 13.89 from 14.02 per
thousand children last year.

The administration claims that the developments are the
result of Dr Abhay Bang’s model to check malnutrition. The administration has
trained 400 accredited social health activists (ASHA) in 330 villages to
provide basic mother-child care.

‘We have filled all medical officers’ vacancies with MBBS
doctors. We focused on implementing an effective public distribution system while
planning an eco development model that would hopefully evoke positive results in
future,’ Divisional Commissioner Praveen Singh Pardeshi told The Times of India.

NGOs allege jugglery of

The NGOs of the Melghat region are alleging that the
administration has most likely under-reported and juggled the figures.

The NGOs also said that even if the figures were real, they were
not good enough for the administration to boast about.

 ‘According to official data, there were 510 child deaths
last year. This year, the number is 509. Is this what you call a positive sign?’
asked Bandu Sane of NGO Khoj.

Dr Ashish Satav of NGO Mahan said it was a positive sign if
IMR and CMR had actually reduced, but there was a chance of under-reporting in
this case.

‘There are some issues on which the administration needs to pay
attention. Neonatal sepsis is a major reason behind deaths and this issue needs
to be addressed. Post-maternal disease management is neglected by the
government and there is no proper health education material available in the
region to educate tribals,’ said Satav.

Of late, malnutrition has become a byword in the forested
hills of the Melghat region inhabited mostly by Korku Adivasis (Korku tribe).

to official figures from 2005, on an average, 400-500 children between the ages
of 0 and 6 die in the region, comprising Chikhaldhara and Dharni taluks.

Although the government claims that not all deaths are due
to malnutrition, the situation is grim. Official figures for malnourished
children for March 2005 from the district health office say that of the 35,431
children examined at primary health centres (PHCs), only 11,343 were of normal
weight. The rest were in various grades of malnutrition. In 2006, of the 37,215
children examined, only 13,168 were of normal weight.

In the next three years,
too, it was a repeat with more than half the number of children examined in
various malnourished categories, some in grades three and four, which is very

In a study, Ashish Satav points out that this
area is known for the highest under-five mortality rate, especially
malnutrition-related deaths in Maharashtra.

Picture source: blog.coloradocollege.edu