Lack of education and poverty continues to contribute to the malnutrition issue in Shahapur taluk.
Parushuram chases the hens but stops as he runs out of breath. His stomach is bloated, arms and legs similar to a stick. His father complains that his child is weak and often falls sick.
“Most of my earnings are spent on my child’s treatment. This year due to the drought we have faced heavy losses,” said Mallikarjun from Tangadgi, father of Parushuram, a malnourished child.
Will Nutrition ever reach Shahapur? This is a question people of Shahapur are asking themselves as they combat malnutrition in the taluk.
Sabbamma, a farmer in Tangadgi faces a similar problem like Mallikarjun as her son Mahesh is severely malnourished. In a dimly lit house, sitting next to a chulha she said, “We have maize farms and we get Rs.100 per day. We don’t get to eat every day. My kids are underweight. Some days we stay empty stomach, skip a meal a day. When we go for work to the fields, we don’t feed the kids anything so they don’t get to eat. My kid has a low blood profile, cough, and asthma.”
Taking a cup of dal of a precise quantity, she told, “We receive one packet dal per person and 20 kilograms of rice through our green colored ration card.” Many people in Shahapura complain of receiving fewer rations than the specified quantity mentioned in the Food Security Act.
Rambai Singh of Sagar told, “We are 12 people in a family. I receive ration at subsidized rates on a green colored ration card I have. A total of 50 kilograms of rice and one packet of dal is what I get on the card.” Wiping her teary eyes she added, “This year has been a struggle for my family. No rains have brought us a heavy share of losses. I am under a debt of around five lakh rupees. The ration we get is over in the first 15 days of the month. I need to buy extra food to suffice my family’s needs and this adds up to my expenditure.”
“Poverty and lack of awareness regarding nutritious food are major reasons for malnutrition to continue in the taluk,” said Dr. Basavaraj Iijeri. According to reports from the Department of Women and Child Development, around 6,000 children in Shahapura Taluk suffer from malnutrition.
Nutritious food at home is essential for a healthy lifestyle while food at schools and anganwadis are supplements. Dr. Rajeshwari Pawar, Nutritionist at District Hospital, Yadgir said, “Shahapura is one of the taluks in Karnataka to have a record of the highest number of cases of malnutrition. She attributes this to a lack of awareness among women regarding feeding a new-born and lack of knowledge of a balanced diet. Every day 80 to 100 severely malnourished cases are registered.”
The Government of India has initiated Aganwadi programme to support the Public Distribution programme to combat malnutrition. The programme involves encouraging children to get educated alongside have at least one healthy meal a day.
Mallikarjun running behind Parushuram, feeding him a small piece of roti said, “My child isn’t regular to Anganwadi. When I visited the Anganwadi one morning, I noticed that the children were not given anything to eat. I tried complaining to higher authorities but no action has been taken.”
Sharadamma, a teacher at Anganwadi in Sagar said, “The ration supply at Anganwadi isn’t regularly. This is one main reason that most times we are unable to give food to children.”
The Department for Women and Child Welfare is responsible for the management of Anganwadis. Kavitha, Incharge of severely malnourished children department at Department of Women and Child Welfare Board, Shahpur taluk said, “To combat malnutrition, children in Anganwadis are to be given milk, egg, rice, and dal every day.”
As the teacher at an Anganwadi left the children, Pavithra ran towards her father. Her father asked, “Did you get milk at school today?” She replied “No”. The father upset with the inefficiency of Anganwadi walked back to his house with his daughter.
The Rashtriya Bal Swasth team visits the taluk every once a year to check the nutrition levels. Dr. Sri Devi said, “It is difficult to combat malnutrition as the visit is once a year. It is more convenient for the local health center to keep nutrition levels in check.”
Block education Health Officer, Shivraj Bheo said,” Not many awareness campaigns held in the taluk to educate the people about the importance of nutritious food and how to combat malnutrition.” He added
Around a year ago, the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre was set up in Yadgir. Severely malnourished children are referred to the NRC for treatment. It is a ten-bed facility with one pediatrician. Dr. Mohammad Osman said, “Combating malnutrition by 2020 is a difficult task as the taluk lacks manpower. He added, “The team of nutritionist, pediatrician, and staff nurses required for efficient treatment is presently small in number in the taluk.”
A new Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre will be set up in Shahpura Taluk to combat malnutrition in a year said the District Health Officer.