Nearly 42 % children in India are malnourished

Jan 10, 2012 12:00 AM

An estimated 42 % of the children in India are malnourished and underweight, an unacceptably high occurrence, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said while releasing the Hunger and Malnutrition Survey Report 2011.
The problem of malnutrition is a matter of national shame and it has been persisting despite impressive growth in our GDP. The level of under-nutrition in the country is unacceptably high. We have also not succeeded in reducing this rate fast enough, he said.

India has nearly 16 crore children below the age of 6 years who, in the years to come, will join its workforce as scientists, as farmers, as teachers, as data operators, as artisans, as service providers. Several of them will become social workers as well he pointed out.
''The health of our economy and society lies in the health of this generation. We cannot hope for a healthy future for our country with a large number of malnourished children,'' the prime minister said.

The HUNGaMA survey report has been brought out jointly by the Citizen's Alliance Against Malnutrition, the Nandi Foundation, Mahindra & Mahindra and other partners and supporters of the Alliance. The survey covered more than 73,000 households in 112 districts across nine states in the country.
The survey reports high levels of malnutrition, but it also indicates that one child in five has reached an acceptable healthy weight during the last seven years in 100 focus districts. This 20 % decline in malnourishment in the last seven years is better than the rate of decline reported in National Family Health Survey–3, the prime minister pointed out.

The solution to the problem of malnutrition, the prime minister said, lies in the mother's education level, the economic status of the family, the provision of sanitation and hygiene, the status of women in the family, breastfeeding and other good child-rearing practices. The HUNGaMA survey has broadly validated these hypotheses, he said.
While the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) continues to be the most important tool to fight malnutrition in the country, he said, focus should also be made on districts where malnutrition levels are high and where conditions causing malnutrition prevail.

Policy makers and programme implementers need to clearly understand the linkages between education and health, between sanitation and hygiene, between drinking water and nutrition and then shape their responses accordingly, he said.
There is hence a need to create awareness among health professionals, sanitation providers, local administration, and the schoolteacher as also the Anganwadi workers of their contribution to nation-building by focusing on the care of the young, the prime minister said.

A National Council on Nutrition Challenges headed by the prime minister, which met a year ago had decided upon four things:

  • To launch a strengthened and restructured ICDS;
  • To start a multi-sectoral programme for 200 high-burden districts;
  • To initiate a nationwide communication campaign against malnutrition; and
  • To bring nutrition focus to key programmes of agricultural development, research and development in agriculture, the public distribution system, the mid-day-meals programme, drinking water, sanitation, health and the latest on the horizon is the food security bill etc.


The ministries concerned are taking necessary action to implement these four decisions.
However, he said, positive outcomes of these efforts will also depend on the cooperation of all stakeholders -- the government, the civil society the entrepreneurs and the business community.

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