Tackling Malnutrition in Rural and Urban Areas

As per NFHS-3, undernutrition is 42.5 % in children below five years. It is 47.9% in Scheduled castes, 54.5% in scheduled tribes and 42.3% in other backward classes. In rural areas it is 45.6 % as compared to 32.7 % in urban areas. 35.6 % of women suffer from Chronic Energy Deficiency (CED). The prevalence of CED in rural areas is 40.6% compared to 25 % in urban areas. It is 41.1% in Scheduled castes, 46.6% in scheduled tribes and 35.7 % in other backward classes.

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. The nutritional status of the population is the outcome of complex and inter-related set of factors and cannot be improved by the efforts of single sector or action alone.

The Government accords high priority to the overall issue of malnutrition, particularly, in respect of children, adolescent girls and women and has been implementing several schemes/ programmes of different Ministries/Departments through State Governments/UTs. These schemes, interalia, include Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Mid Day Meals Scheme, Drinking Water & Total Sanitation Campaign, Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), Targeted Public Distribution System 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.

To reach out the six services including supplementary nutrition to children below six years, pregnant and lactating mothers the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme has been universalised with special focus on SC/ST and minority habitation. There has been revision in cost norms as well as the Nutritional and Feeding norms of the Supplementary Nutrition component of ICDS.

Government has approved a total of 14 lakh Aganwadi Centres (AWCs)/ mini-AWCs, including 20,000 AWCs- on demand to cover all the habitations in the country. 13.67 lakh AWCs/ mini-AWCs, including 12.4 lakh AWCs/mini-AWCs in rural/tribal areas, have been sanctioned in the country. Out of 13.67 lakhs AWCs 11.95 lakh are operational so far. It is expected that the expansion and universalisation of ICDS and expansion of other programmes will positively impact the nutritional status in the areas which have not been covered so far.

Based on the recommendations of a Task Force of the Ministry of Women & Child Development with representation of various Ministries, including the Planning Commission, the nutritional and feeding norms under ICDS Scheme were revised and detailed vide letter No. 5-9/2005/ND/Tech (Vol.II) dated 24.2.2009. The revised norms, inter-alia, laid down: Early initiation and exclusive breast-feeding for children in the age group of 0-6 months; Take Home Ration (THR) in the form of Micronutrient Fortified Food and/or Energy-dense food that is more palatable to the child for children of 6 months to 3 years, in addition to the mixed practice of giving dry or raw ration; Morning snacks and Hot cooked meal to children of 3 to 6 years in Anganwadi Centres.

Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in its Order dated 22.4.2009, in Writ Petition (C) No. 196/2001 in the matter of Peoples’ Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) Vs. UOI & Ors., inter-alia, directed that norms indicated in GOI letter have to be implemented forthwith and also directed all the States/UTs to provide supplementary nutrition in the form of a morning snack and hot cooked meal to the children in the age group of 3-6 years as contained in the letter dated 24.2.2009 preferably by 31st December, 2009. Accordingly, Government of India had also requested all the State Governments/UT Administrations to comply with the directions.

This information was given by Smt. Krishna Tirath, Minister of State for Women and Child Development in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha today.


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