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India: Nutrition key to children's well-being

May 11, 2010

More than 50% of child death in India is due to malnutrition, says a new study on nutritional challenges. Based on the recommendations, the Ministry of Women and Child Development plans for a nutritional surveillance system to identify high risk and vulnerable disticts.

New Delhi: A new study on nutritional challenges has painted a grim picture of the current Indian scenario where over 50% of child deaths are caused due to malnutrition. Concerned over the high number of child deaths, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) plans to strengthen nutritional surveillance by mapping undernourished endemic zones and identifying "high risk and vulnerable districts".

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The report recommends developing a nutrition surveillance system to identify clusters of cases and deaths due to undernutrition. It also suggests setting up of a working group comprising experts to monitor ICDS and MRHM. The system envisages tracking of children to ensure medical intervention and families can benefit from government schemes like 100 days of employment under NREGA.

"The problem of malnutrition is acute. There has to be a synergy between all ministries like health, rural development, education and WCD to ensure that we are able to meet targets," WCD minister Krishna Tirath said.

The WCD ministry has already presented a paper to Planning Commission on the issue. Sources said there was need for nutritional aspect to take centrestage in all welfare programmes and policies. While this has been done to some extent in government programmes like National Rural Health Mission, ICDS, JNNURM, Rajiv Gandhi national drinking water mission and national food security mission, the report pointed out that gaps remained.

Core interventions that have been recommended include ensuring household food security and livelihood, need for supplementary food programmes to address maternal and infant undernutrition, restructuring of ICDS, capacity building, monitoring nutrition interventions and restructuring of ICDS.

The ministry also plans to take up the matter of construction of anganwadi centres through NREGA and MP local area development funds. About 20% of buildings are in kutcha buildings while of the remaining 80%, nearly half are in rented buildings.

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