While we loudly discuss the probable war strategies (however novice we may be about defence issues), with our friends, munching on a plateful of goodies, a child somewhere dies a silent death – of malnutrition! Yes, you heard it right – there are communities which still die of severe malnutrition. And what could be more shameful that while we waste plates and plates of food in lavish weddings, a lot many hungry children go to bed in empty stomach.
Despite India’s recorded increase of GDP more than one third of world’s malnourished children live in India . One of the major cause for this is economic inequality. Obviously the diet of a large number of population often lacks both quality and quantity.
Women who suffered malnutrition are less likely to have healthy babies. 44% of children under age of 5 are under weight. 72% of infants and 52% of married women have anemia.
Dr Subhas Chandra Gorai is a medical doctor by profession and a dedicated social worker by choice , he is a colleague in development of mine for several years and I have work experience with him in remote locations in various remote villages in West Bengal and others places as far flung as Assam. Recently he sent me a note along with few pictures on his visit (along with some of his co-workers) to a remote area, which can well be a pointer towards the ground reality of the scenario of mal-nutrition.
Guhisayal village in Sukinda Block in Jajpur district in the state of Odisha is one such area which is reeling under conditions of severe malnutrition. The area is very close to Nagada which came into national headlines recently due to malnutrition related deaths. To reach to this village would require a 5 km walk through a rough, rocky terrain.
The team was appalled to see the pathetic living conditions of the handful of villagers, especially the children. 4 children are already under medical support for severe malnutrition condition. The rest of the villagers are grappling with hunger and poverty. PDS is their only source of food supply but is not adequate to fulfill the nutritional needs. Moreover, as the team discovered, the lack of knowledge about health and hygiene too contributed much to the deteriorating conditions. Their condition disturbed Dr. Garai and his team so much that they shared whatever dry food they carried with themselves….But not before the children were made to wash their hands with soap paper that the team was fortunately carrying with themselves. It was a moving picture to see the children hungrily devouring the food that was offered. He writes "the sparkle of their eyes was very much visible . On a lighter note - though our stomach remained empty, their smile filled our hearts." They have a water-hole the only source of water for all purpose.
The experience has moved Dr.Garai and his team so much that they have decided to tackle the issue head on.Soon the team is gearing up to prepare an action plan for the area.
As one of the team members reacted, “Sirjee. Aap Gabbar ban jaiye. Hum is elakey ki, har ghar se chun chun kar malnutrition ko dhundhenge aur usey desh se bhagayenge”.
The core idea behind this write-up is not to open an academic discussion on the issues of malnutrition. It is primarily to rededicate some of us working at village level on rural development to continue to address the issues of malnutrition in different ways which are feasible within our reach.