The meeting of Consultative Committee of Parliament on “Malnutrition in Women & Children – Problems & Remedies” was held in Nainital, Uttrakhand today. It was chaired by Smt. Krishna Tirath the Minister of state (Independent Charge) of women and child development. Speaking on the occasion she said that India has made tremendous economic progress in various fields. There are many programmes aimed at the holistic development especially for women and children. We have in India an elaborate health system and technical backing on nutrition research. These achievements notwithstanding, India has high prevalence of malnutrition with its related consequences which continues to be a point of great concern. Today, 42% of our children below 5 years are under weight and 69.5% children are anemic. 22% of babies are born with low birth weight. 35.6% women aged 15 – 49 years have low body mass index and 55% are anemic. Though there has been improvement in underweight children from 42.7% in 1988-99 (NFHS-II) to 40.4% in 2005-06 (NFHS-III). Further, in respect of anemia, there has been an increase from 74.3% (NFHS-II) to 78.9% (NFHS-III) in children below 3 years and from 51.8 % to 56.2% in women aged 15-49 years.
The problem of malnutrition is multi-dimensional and inter-generational in nature, the determinants of which include household food insecurity, illiteracy and lack of awareness especially in women, access to health services, availability of safe drinking water, sanitation and proper environmental conditions and adequate purchasing power etc. Besides, marriage of girls at early age, teenage pregnancies resulting in low birth weight of the newborns, poor breastfeeding practices, poor complementary feeding practices, ignorance about nutritional needs of infants and young children and repeated infections, also aggravate the malnutrition amongst children.
It is being increasingly recognized that the best option is to have multi-pronged action in a time-bound and intervention focused way. As per the studies, the malnutrition exists even in food sufficient households, mostly due to inappropriate infant and young child feeding and caring practices, high levels of exposure to infections and, therefore, has its origin during the prenatal and first two years of life. Malnutrition has to be recognised as a national problem, and not a sectoral problem since no single sector can ever solve the problem of malnutrition in isolation.
Malnutrition is the underlying cause of more than one-third of all child deaths under the age of 5 in developing countries. Many of these deaths are preventable through effective nutrition interventions operating at scale. From Pregnancy to age of 24 months has been recognized as the critical window of opportunity for delivery of nutrition interventions. We must have an ultimate goal of considerable reduction of under nutrition among children below 3 years and pregnant and nursing women because if we lose this window of opportunity, we have lost the battle. If a child slips into malnutrition in the first 3 years of life, it is very difficult to pull him out of this vicious intergenerational cycle of malnutrition. In the Ministry we have schemes such as ICDS, the proposed SABLA and Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojna as response to addressing the intergenerational cycle. This has also to be coupled with social awakening regarding discouraging early marriage, spacing in children, awareness about maternal and child health and nutritional related issues.
There are several schemes/ programmes of different Ministries/Departments through State Governments/UTs which impact directly or indirectly on the nutritional status. Some of these schemes are Integrated Child Development Services, National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Mid Day Meals Scheme, Total Sanitation Campaign, NREGS etc. Several of the schemes namely, ICDS, NRHM, Mid Day meal (MDM), SGSY have been expanded to provide for increased coverage and improved services to the people during the last few years only. In fact the ICDS programme till the year 2005 was only covering 50% of the area in the country. Thus the impact of these schemes is likely to be visible in a few years time as ICDS is on its way to be universalized.
Smt Tirath stressed the need of active cooperation of the States as the ultimate implementation of the programmes is with them. In the recent meeting with the State Ministers and Secretaries incharge of Women and child Development on 16-17th June 2010, the States wre requested to set up State Nutrition Council chaired by the Chief Minister, a State Coordination Committee chaired by the Chief Secretary and having Secretaries of the concerned Departments as members for monitoring and evaluation of all nutrition related programmes and indicators. It would greatly facilitate to have District- Nutrition Action Plans for enabling convergent and coordinated actions. She informed the members that Secretary, WCD Shri D.K. Sikri has also written to the Chief Secretaries of the States/UTs to set up the State Nutrition Council which can guide the preparation of the State Nutrition Action Plans as well as the District Action Plans to address the nutrition challenges. In fact the nutritional status of young children can be a lead progress indicator for other major programmes. The Central Government under the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has been taking all steps to eradicate the malnutrition from this country.
The minister told the members that she had toured Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Kerala and even Sikkim to herself assess the malnutrition and to motivate the States to have regular monitoring and checks.
She said that she intends to visit each and every States and UTs to further the crusade against malnutrition. She will soon hold a meeting with young MPs, who are involved in this area, on 29th of this month to discuss with them and know their views. Thereafter, the meeting of National Council on India’s Nutritional Challenges will be held under the Chairpersonship of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, indicating that his Government is totally committed for complete eradication of malnutrition from the country, and at the earliest.
Smt. Krishna Tirath further said that it is also important that access of poor and needy children and women to the qualitative food fortified with essential micronutrients needs to be improved by encouraging PPP (Public Private Partnership) and by co-operating with the organized sector to effectively use the latest technology and management skills in the exiting food distribution scheme i.e. PDS, MDM and ICDS. The food scheme needs to be extended to cover even the other family members of the eligible beneficiaries to tackle Malnutrition, prevalent in every age group, she added. The focus under the existing food distribution schemes i.e. PDS, MDM and ICDS should remain at adequate regular delivery of dietary intake on the lines of Polio Drops wherein polio drops are given to as many numbers of times as possible to the beneficiaries at their door step. The nutritional content of the food needs to be enriched by way of inclusion of fortified Wheat, Flour, Rice Pulses, Sugar and/or Salt (containing food grade Iron in adequate concentration, Folic Acid, Zinc etc.) under PDS and as key ingredients under MDM and ICDS to effectively eradicate Malnutrition and especially prevalence of Anemia among the children and the women. The Nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers and children under the age of two needs to be addressed by providing them with Micronutrient Fortified Energy Dense Food [Containing 1/3 of RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for adolescent girls and 50% of RDA for pregnant women and lactating mothers and children under the age of two] as Take Home Ration as prescribed under the revised Nutrition and Feeding Norms issued on 24th February, 2009 by Ministry of Women & Child Development, Govt. of India.
She cautioned that though much is being done, we all need to concentrate and work on the solutions for malnutrition. Each and every one of us has a responsibility in this regard which calls for concerted action upto the household level with greater social mobilization, better convergence and massive communication measures and nutrition education strategies.
Valuable suggestions also came from the Members of Parliament who participated in this extremely significant meeting. Three of the Lok Sabha members who took part in deliberations were Shri Nikhil Kumar Choudhary, Smt. Jhansi Laxmi Botcha and Smt. Susmita Bauri. The members also called for working with Coherence with all other ministries involved with the welfare of women and children. They stressed the need to provide Sanitation, Safe Drinking water along with Food security to the people in the villages as well. They all agreed that effective monitoring and greater accountability is needed at all levels.
YSK (Nainital Meeting)
(Release ID :62820)
- Child malnutrition in India: Putting the smallest first (economist.com)
- Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- World Vision: Malnutrition Starves Children, Economies of a Lifetime of Potential (huffingtonpost.com)