How Parents Struggle To Get Their Underweight Children Treated In Palghar

Three-year-old Gauri Sapta weighs less than 5 kg.

Palghar, Maharashtra: Three-year old Gauri Sapta from Dohrepada in Maharashtra’s Jawhar has made at least 15 trips to the Jawhar Kutir hospital in the last three years. Each time, she spends over a week there to be nourished back to health.

The ideal weight for a girl of her age is 12-13 kg. Gauri, however, weighs less than 5 kg.

This time, her parents brought her to the hospital not because she’s under-nourished but because she fell and hurt herself. Her mother Gangu Sapta said, “She has been in and out of the hospital but nothing has changed.”

30 km away in Mokhada in Palghar district, 4-year-old Vishal Valvi has been falling ill frequently with complaints of fever and cold. He’s 2 kg less than his suitable weight of 13.6 kg.

His mother ekes out a living as a domestic help but with no support at home, he travels with her. His mother, Kamal Valvi, said, “The doctor told me that he is under-nourished. His weight doesn’t increase. I have to pay Rs 20 per day if he has to be admitted to the hospital.”

While paying the doctor’s fee is a problem, it’s even tougher for people who come from remote areas of the district that are not well-connected.

NDTV came across a group of women who were walking with their children, some of them infants, to the primary health centre.

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Family members and children have to walk for 20 km to reach a primary health centre.

Geeta, who was carrying a 2-month-old son, opened her umbrella as it started to rain. “We have walked some 15 km. We probably have to cover another 5 km) before we reach the primary health centre,” she says.

Vaishali Sapte, also a resident of Dapti village, who is accompanying the women, said, “They have to go for regular checks for their children. We were told that the administration will send a vehicle, but when it didn’t come, they started walking.”

The government’s data for Palghar district for 2015-16 shows that there are 7,320 malnourished children, of which, 1,456 are severely malnourished. Over 200 have died in just 5 months this year, between April and August 2016.

Palghar’s malnutrition crisis has caught the attention of the National Human Rights Commission as well as the Supreme Court, that’s closely watching the state government’s steps on tackling malnutrition.

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