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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rights lens on malnutrition

- Panel hearing in March on neglect of treatment centres

The chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has decided to organise a week-long public hearing in the first week of March, peeved about the utter neglect of facilities at malnutrition treatment centres (MTCs) in various districts.

The state panel chief, Rooplakshmi Munda, said the hearing would be held in Dhanbad, Bokaro, East and West Singhbhum in the first phase followed by other districts to address grievances of nursing staff, parents and anganwadi workers.

The weight, height and age of children will also be measured for accurate detection of cases of malnutrition. After the hearing, the chairperson will submit a report to the state health department.

According to the National Family Health Survey-3 (2005-06), prevalence of malnutrition in Jharkhand is the second highest among all states.

The state has 54.6 per cent underweight and 47.2 per cent stunted children in the age group of 0 to 5. Jharkhand is only next to Gujarat, where 52 per cent of the children are underweight. The national average is 45 per cent.

The state has 48 MTCs with 10-beds each, with every district allotted two centres.

Each MTC has child-friendly wards, kitchen, a screening room and toilets. Besides, there are four paramedical staff, a doctor and four auxiliary nurses and midwives (ANMs).

But, during a recent visit to MTCs in Chanho block of Ranchi and in Khunti, Munda was appalled by the existing conditions at the centres.

“I saw many parents sitting on the veranda with their malnourished children as the centres lacked less beds than the provision made by the state health department.”

Rather than 10 beds for 10 children between 0 and 5, the MTCs had six to seven beds but tried to accommodate between 11 and 16 patients each.

“We even found that doctors were not available at the centres and parents were seen requesting the paramedical staff to accommodate their children,” she pointed out.

A team of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) assessed the status of malnourished children in Jharkhand in April last.

“The team visited MTCs in Ranchi and Gumla and recommended admission of the child’s mother so that she, too, can avail of a healthy diet and ensure the entire family is not affected by malnutrition,” she added. Munda stressed that the state unit would follow the suggestion of the NCPCR team and “ensure that paramedical staff and ANMs provide nutritional diet to mothers, too”.