BANGALORE: Over 2,600 children, all of them less than six-years-old have died of malnutrition in Raichur district of Karnataka in the last two years.
Malnutrition has hit epidemic proportions in the villages of Deodurg and Manvi talukas of the district, which is the home of the country’s only active gold mine, Hutti Gold Mines. As many as 4,531 children are suffering from malnutrition in these two talks and the government authorities had given deaf ears to the repeated plea of NGOs, according to Mr Y Mariswamy of Samajika Parivarthana Andolana, a movement for people’s rights.
Acute poverty, unemployment, poor income and lack of health services coupled with government’s apathy and non-implementation of NREGA had turned Raichur into a mini Somalia.
Raichur district is one of the hottest and arid regions in Karnataka. Landless people from the district often migrate to Hyderabad and Bangalore in search of livelihood.
According to data provided by women and child welfare department, 2,689 children have died due to malnutrition, of which 811 died in 2009 and 1,233 in 2010. As many as 645 such deaths have been recorded till August 2011.
Raichur ranked among the lowest among the 30 districts of Karnataka as far as the human development index was concerned. A large number of villages did not have access to clean drinking water. They were also deprived of public distribution system and employment guarantee programmes, Mr Mariswamy said.
The Chief Minister, Mr D V Sadananda Gowda, who met a group of villagers from Raichur when they were on an agitational mood, had assured them of help. ‘’I am aware of the situation; we will undertake measures to end this problem,’’ Mr Gowda had later told reporters.
‘’The entire system has collapsed. It has now become a sociopolitical and economic issue. Karnataka claims to be a progressive state but look at what is happening in these villages,’’ Dr Akhila Vasan, a child healthcare expert, said.
The data also shows that 78,366 children are malnourished in the district, of which 639 are severely malnourished (grade III and grade IV). ‘’People in Deodurg and Manvi talukas are agricultural labourers. Their combined family income is not more than `100 per day. Their staple diet is jowar. Neighbouring Bagalkote, Gulbarga, and Bidar districts have similar issues,’’ Mr Ambanna Arolikar of the SPJ said.
The infant mortality rate in the north Karnataka districts is higher than the state average of 55. As of now, there are 8,620 children belonging to grade III and 643 children belonging to grade IV levels of malnutrition in the state. Of this, Raichur district alone accounts for the bulk of it.