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Malnourished kids up in slums,but civic hospitals draw a blank

‘Officials were either not on duty or not available when sick children were taken to civic hospitals’

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas |
July 18, 2012 12:42:40 am

‘Officials were either not on duty or not available when sick children were taken to civic hospitals’

Even as surveys over the years show an increasing number of children in the age group of 0-6 years with malnutrition in Pune’s slums,an Express RTI query reveals that this is not reflected in civic hospital data.

For instance,according to the RTI reply,civic hospitals have seen no case of malnourished children brought in with illnesses from the densely populated slums of Ghorpadi-Kondhwa area from 2009 to 2012. A 2011-12 survey of 18,166 children in slums of Ghorpadi-Kondhwa,however,reveals that 2,989 children were moderately malnourished,and 175 severely malnourished. In 2010-11,a total of 18,172 children were surveyed in that pocket and 3,527 were found to be moderately malnourished and 307 severely malnourished.

Civic hospital data on malnourished children brought in for illnesses was nil for both the years.

When contacted,the child development project officer of the area Vijaya Karat explained that most of the time,officials were either not on duty or not available when sick children were taken to municipal hospitals,and at times children were referred to Sassoon General Hospital.

There are 104 projects under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme in urban slums of the state,and Pune has been allocated 10 projects (two in Pimpri) to identify malnourished children in more than 500 urban slums and provide interventions. The boundaries of project areas are not clearly demarcated and at times overlap with areas where child development project officers provide interventions. In the central area of Pune like Nana Peth,Mangalwar Peth,Kasewadi,Janata Vasahat,Bibvewadi,Sahkarnagar and others for instance,Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) Suhita Owhal says some areas under her project are shared by another project.

Surveys show that there were 2,709 children with moderate malnutrition in central slums of Pune in 2010-11,while severe malnutrition was seen in 420 children. In 2011-12,there were 2,426 children with moderate malnutrition and 144 with severe malnutrition.

Information from civic hospital reveals only three malnourished children had illnesses in 2010-11 while the figure was nil in 2011-12.

Owhal says efforts are being made by CDPOs of each of the 10 projects to reach out to parents of children to send them to anganwadis,where nutritious meals are served. There,however,is a sizeable number of children from the floating population of migrants working at construction sites and brick kilns who are in transit. “They are are the ones we have to reach out to,” she says.

Mangalwar Peth slums also show a rise in number of children with malnutrition. There were 3,578 moderately malnourished (Grade III) children,and 106 severely malnourished (Grade IV) in 2011. There were 4,607 Grade III and 114 Grade IV category children in 2010. Again,the project for Tadiwala road slums and surrounding areas of the city shows an increasing trend where there were 7,663 severely malnourished children in 2010-11 and 4,282 in 2011-12. The number of moderately malnourished children was equally high with as many as 46,135 in 2010-11 and 57,625 in 2011-12.

In Shivajinagar slums and surrounding areas,the number of malnourished children was 126 in 2009-10,2,326 in 2010-11 and 2,490 in 2011-12. The number of moderately malnourished children in 2010-11 was 2,089 and severely malnourished children was 227. In 2011-12,the figure was 2,315 moderately malnourished and 175 severely malnourished children.

Interestingly there were no malnourished children with illnesses reported at civic hospitals.

Shivajinagar CDPO Meenakshi Birajdar says that in spite of providing interventions,several problems are encountered in slum areas of Shivajingar,lack of hygiene in particular. Birajdar says,“We try to tell them the right way to cook vegetables. Most men prefer spicy non-veg meals. Men are often alcoholic compounding the problem of malnutrition as women are not allowed to cook the way we tell them… Women often marry early and have several children….”

According to Kamala Nehru Hospital authorities,from April 2009 to March 2010 there were two children with protein malnutrition (marasmus) who were treated while the figure was nil in 2010-11.

Rahul More,Deputy Commissioner,Child Welfare,say that when anganwadi workers refer children to civic hospitals they are often asked to return later. “We cannot wait for a check up for six months,” says More,who added that quarterly health check-ups are needed.

As per new WHO guidelines to track children’s growth from six months to five years,if weight is less than minus 3 standard deviation for a particular height,he/she has severe acute malnutrition (SAM). If weight is between minus 3 standard deviation and minus 2 deviation for a particular height,it is labelled as moderate acute malnutrition (MAM). Various projects in the city’s slums have yet to follow these WHO guidelines,and the old criteria of weight for age is taken into account,says More.

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