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Last Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
India child malnutrition deaths
By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

Indian children, BBC
Almost one in 10 children in India die before the age of five (UN)
Nearly 1,600 children under the age of six have died in India's Maharashtra state, many from malnutrition, in the past four months, officials say.

Most of the deaths have occurred in tribal areas of the western Indian state, the government says.

The High Court in Mumbai (Bombay) has ordered the state government to submit a plan to address the problem.

Health officials say illiteracy, poverty and isolation of the tribal areas contribute to the death rate.

The government said most of the deaths have taken place in tribal areas across the districts of Thane, Nandurbhar, Nasik, Amravati and Gadchiroli.

Isolated communities

"It is an enormous number, we agree with that, we are trying all we can to ensure that this number comes down," Additional Director of Health Services for Maharashtra PP Doke, told the BBC News website.

He said that most of the deaths have taken place in tribal areas because the tribesmen are illiterate, live in extreme poverty and do not communicate with state officials.

New strategies launched by the government "include providing additional nutrition to children and mothers as well as setting up rural hospitals and encouraging people to go to them in case of any problem," he said.

The government announced the figures during a High Court hearing.

The High Court has asked the government to submit a concrete plan to tackle the problem.

Child deaths rise in Indian state
06 Jul 04 |  South Asia
Feeding India's children
28 Apr 03 |  South Asia
Indian children 'malnourished'
23 Oct 02 |  South Asia

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