Nearly 100 infants in Madhya Pradesh’s tribal districts of Satna and Khandwa have been reported in 2008 aggravated by malnutrition and hunger. More than 60% of MP’s children are malnourished according to the official National Health Survey conducted in 2006. Although the govt officials attribute the deaths to disease and not starvation, lack of food evidently played a role in hastening their deaths. According to official statement hunger deaths refer more often to people dying on account of weakness and disease aggravated by lack of nutritious food.
One of the 8 Millennium Development Goals that member countries of the United Nations pledged to attain by the year 2015 is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Another goal is to reduce maternal mortality. A UN mid-term review of the MDGs has found India seriously wanting. Over 200 million people in India lack access to adequate food to meet their nutrition requirements. More than 50% of children in India are malnourished, 20% of them severely.
While half a million maternal deaths annually, more women in India die during pregnancy ,more women in India die during pregnancy or childbirth than in any other country in the world. India accounts for 20% of the world’s maternity deaths. While hunger related deaths are either because of high food prices or poor distribution or even pilferage of food meant for those below the poverty line, maternal deaths occur mostly due to lack of medical attention, particulary in rural areas and if the woman is also suffering malnutrition, her life is at high risk.
Food intervention alone is not the answer; equally a good public health care system is necessary to ensure that infants and pregnant women receive timely and appropriate medical attention. The health ministry should focus on improving health care system. Sanitation and hygiene play an important role also. Accurate data on the effectiveness of public schemes and of primary health centers is rarely available. Tracking progress is important to enable evaluation and improvement.