Far Eastern Economic Review

October 16 1971

Children of Death

By Tapan Das Gupta

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But the children suffering from malnutrition will not start dying at once. They die a few at a time, five in one camp, 10 in another; but they die.

According to two Indian doctors appointed by the government to study the problem, more than 100,000 infants and pre-school children may die if urgent steps are not taken in the next few months. This estimate is conservative by comparison with that made by Dr. Scrimshaw, a nutrition expert from Massachusetts Institute of Technology who visited the refugee camps along with Senator Edward Kennedy. His figure put the number of those who face death during the next few months at 300,000.

The Indian team had recommended that nutrition therapy centres should be set up and an emergency relief operation to provide supplementary food launched. The government has gone ahead on both projects, to the tune of Rs30 million (US$4 million).

A co-ordination committee of 12 relief organisations including Caritas India, Oxfam, Save the Children Fund and Catholic Relief Service has been set up under the overall guidance of the Indian Red Cross to start a mass feeding programme. This joint venture, known as operation Life Line, consists of two parts: feeding the undernourished children, and catering for critical cases involving hospitalization.

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