20 Jul

Child Malnutrition in Bihar

Malnourishment is a condition which plagues our country to this day. Most of us have no real intuition for the severity of this issue. The government’s estimates say that 560 out of every 1000 kids under 5 years’ age are malnourished! That’s a little more than 50%, making that close to 60 lakh malnourished kids in Bihar alone!

The Nutrition Rehabilitation Centers (NRCs) are an excellent initiative by the government to tackle malnourishment. These centers admit malnourished children along with their mothers, pay them to stay there for as long as it takes to pull the kid out of malnourishment. However, we realized that there are many shortcomings to this meaningful initiative. Through a detailed study of RTI petitions we had filed regarding the occupancy of these NRCs in Bihar, we had shown in 2014 that close to 30% NRCs were not being utilized to its fullest capacity when there were just 38 NRCs in the whole of Bihar! Refer to the infographic:

Infographic describing our analysis of RTIs related to the functioning of NRCs in Bihar.

Infographic describing our analysis of RTIs related to the functioning of NRCs in Bihar.

This fight of ours turned ugly three months back when the NRC in Patna city was found to be closed, a travesty to say the least. For the last three months, this particular center, which serves a couple dozen panchayats, has been shut.

We got onto this with all guns blazing – we first hunted down reporters in the region who could cover this for us. We showed one journalist around villages where there were families ready to get their kids admitted to these centers but who were being denied this facility – we had at least 15 such families ready. We started following up with the medical officers at the block and district level to know when this would be resolved and made our presence and urgency felt. We also filed a complaint at the Lokshikayat center, a newly formed and seemingly effective public grievance center operated by the government of Bihar.

Our frantic attempts have borne some fruits. Prabhat Khabar, a leading Hindi daily, covered a series of reports on this condition after we showed around one of its reporters the situation on the field (see two such reports).

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We have a date finalized with the Lokshikayat where the Additional District Magistrate will adjudicate this matter. Only last week, we got a phone call from the medical officer-in-charge of the NRC informing us that the center had opened. On visiting the center, however, we realized that there’s a lack of funds and it’s not really operational yet.

We’re pleased that the system sat up and took note of this grave matter.

We will continue to fight tooth and nail till these fundamental issues are resolved. Full speed ahead!

Please let us know if you want to be a part of this initiative and remember…

Together we can.

 

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