By: Dr Subhash Sharma
The problem of malnourishment remains a key concern for Indian policy makers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday reviewed the progress and efforts being made to prevent and reduce under-nutrition and related problems in India. The high level review meeting was attended by officials from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), NITI Aayog and other ministries. The current status of malnutrition, stunting and related problems were reviewed. Successful nutrition initiatives in some other developing countries came up for discussion. Prime Minister Modi stressed on the need to work towards concrete objectives to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, low birth weight, and anaemia. He emphasised that visible and measurable results should be seen by 2022, the 75th anniversary of independence.
Towards this end, real-time monitoring towards progress of nutrition outcomes was discussed, especially in the worst performing districts. Senior officials emphasised that initiatives of the Union Government such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Mission Indradhanush, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, and Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana are having a positive impact on nutrition. In this context, the Prime Minister called for convergence among all schemes of Union and State governments, which directly or indirectly have an impact on nutrition outcomes. He said raising social awareness towards the importance of nutrition is necessary, to achieve the desired results.
The Central has taken various measures to check malnutrition in the people living Below Poverty Line (BPL) and the tribals. The promotion of appropriate infant and young child feeding practices has been taken up that includes early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding till six months of age through ASHA worker and health care provider at health facilities. Under ‘MAA’ programme of MoHFW, impetus on capacity building of the health workers on lactation management at both community and facility levels and 360 degree IEC campaign to create awareness regarding breastfeeding is being carried out.
Treatment of sick children with severe acute malnutrition at special units called the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs), set up at public health facilities, is another area, which needs priority attention. Presently 965 such centres are functional in 26 States and UTs. Vitamin A supplementation for children aged six months to 5 years and iron and folic acid supplementation is being carried out for children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women through life cycle approach under ‘National Iron Plus Initiative’ programme. Also, the promotion of intake of iodised salt is being carried out under National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Programme.
Village Health and Nutrition Days and Mother and Child Protection Card are the joint initiative of the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Woman and Child for addressing the nutrition concerns in children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. Monthly Village Health and Nutrition Days (VHND) are monthly days held at village level in Anganwadi centre to increase the awareness and bring about desired changes in the dietary practices including the promotion of breastfeeding. Under the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) and Rashtriya Kishore SwasthyaKaryakram (RKSK), systematic efforts are undertaken to detect nutrition deficiency among children and adolescents respectively.
Supplementary Nutrition in form of hot-cooked meals and take-home ration provided to children aged 6 months to 6 years under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme, Growth monitoring of children aged 0-5 years on a monthly basis at Anganwadi Centres. Mid-day meal is provided for all students enrolled in Government and Government aided schools. As per the Rural Health Survey (RHS) 2016, the number of healthcare centres functioning in the tribal areas is 33,301. These include 163 district hospitals, 1,030 community health centres, 4,012 primary health centres and 28,096 sub-centres. Also, presently 260 NRCs are functioning in tribal areas. However, a lot still needs to be done to win the war against malnutrtion. Lipservice won’t make any difference.
(The writer is Director, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Chandigarh. Views are his personal)