Monday, 24 October 2011

Karnataka's shame: 2000 die of malnutrition


Raichur (Karnataka): More than 2000 children have died of hunger in Karnataka's Raichur district over the last 3 years. The government admits that around 4500 children are malnourished in Raichur.
Nagaraju is one of them.
When we first met 14-year-old Nagaraju last week, he was in a shocking condition, his sunken cheekbones and stick-like limbs told the story of one who'd hardly ever seen 2 meals a day. His mother had only cried in helplessness.
Parvathy, Nagaraju's mother, says, "We don't understand his illness and we have no more money to spend on him."
But by the time the story of his life made it on air, Nagaraju gave up his battle with life. He breathed his last on Sunday and became yet another statistic in Raichur's hall of shame where starvation deaths are chronic.
You'd never guess that Divyashree is 3-year-old and she weighs just 4 kilos. And is not half as active as infants next to her.
Divyashree's care-taker says, "She's not ill but she is too weak. We're tired of seeing doctors."
In village after village, we saw under-weight children. The Karnataka Government accepts that over 4,500 children in Raichur district suffer from acute malnutrition.
The Government's Anganwadi system meant to care for children up to age six, has almost completely failed. The main problem is with food.
Ambanna Arolikar, a social worker, says, "In 2006, Supreme Court said no packet food, serve local fresh food. But Government has ignored the order."
Thayamma, a mother, says, "The food they give is very poor. They give kurkure, we can't feed our baby that."
More than 2,200 child deaths have been recorded in Raichur the last 3 years. Officials cite the last illness that triggers death but NGOs say malnutrition right from birth is the real killer.
Nina Nayak, Chairperson, Child Rights Commission, says, "We've heard several complaints from many districts but northern districts like Raichur and Bijapur are most affected."
Karnataka Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda says, "Since last one year only 4 deaths have been caused. It may be due to malnutrition."
Nagaraju's almost skeletal frame is an image that will stay with me. We do try to be objective in our reporting but there is no other side to Nagaraju's story. This 14-year-old did not deserve death by starvation. It's a tragedy that could and should have been prevented. Someone is responsible, someone does need to answer.

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