Children die of hunger as $2 Billion Program Proves Defective

The three untended child-sized graves, a few minutes’ walk from the village of Paltupur, bear witness to what happened when the trucks loaded with nutritional powder stopped coming to this desolate corner of eastern India.

Great Value Foods Ltd.’s deliveries of the tasteless yellow substance, funded by a $2 billion program for India’s youngest and poorest, were cut off in August. All 2-year-old Jialal’s mother had left to give her son was boiled rice, the only food she could afford on a yearly income of about $75.
As the days stretched into weeks, the boy kept losing weight. His crying grew feeble. He ran fevers. He’d fall as soon as his mother, Kalavati, let go of his hand.
On Sept. 23, Jialal died, strapped to his mother’s chest as she searched the countryside for help. He wasn’t the first victim in the village, nor the last. On Aug. 20, Archna died. She was two. On Oct. 2, Anjali died. She was two.
In a neighboring village, graves also were dug for Karishma, who died on Sept. 10 at the age of one. And for Raj Kamal, who was two when he died on Oct. 4.
India’s only government program to nourish as many as 160 million children under six has failed those from Kaushambhi district in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and tens of millions of others around the country. The billions India budgets for feeding children -- 4.4 cents for each per day -- have barely dented one of the world’s highest rates of child malnutrition.
Instead, the program has allowed a web of private firms to take over distribution, in defiance of orders from the Supreme Court of India.