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Saturday 1 March 2014

Healthcare On Mobiles: Featured post- mHealth fighting malnutrition


Malnutrition is a byword in the forested hills of the Melghat region inhabited mostly by Korku Adivasis. Every year 400-500 children between the ages of 0 and 6 die in the region, comprising Chikhaldhara and Dharni taluks, according to official figures from 2005.


The Problem: Thousands of kids die every year in the tribal area of Melghat (Maharashtra, India) due to lack of medical attention and nutritional support. Increased incidence and rapid spread of infectious diseases such as pneumonia, typhoid, and dysentery are primary cause of high child mortality. Situation worsens during monsoon when the food supplies are low and the communicable diseases are at their peak.

Melghat is also a place known for high infant mortality rate. Some reasons for the health crisis in Melghat include lack of infrastructure, under-equipped and under-staffed public health and ICDS centres, the tradition of early marriages and early motherhood, lack of sanitation and clean drinking water facilities and the tribals' blind faith in bhumkas (quacks).

Failed Operations of the past: When the Maharashtra government first recorded the figures of child deaths due to endemic malnutrition in the remote villages of Melghat, shocking numbers were revealed.Almost two decades later, even though the government figures show a substantial drop in the number of malnutrition deaths, social activists and health-coordinators working in the impoverished area say that the authorities pass off such deaths as still-births.

The reality continues to bite with the data recorded just before monsoon this year, indicating 509 malnutrition induced deaths during past year, until March 2011. Every year, hundreds of children of Korku tribe in the tehsils of Melghat in the Satpura ranges fall prey to starvation and malnutrition. While the government records indicate figures ranging from 400-525 in the last five years, health activists working among the tribals tell a different story.
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