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Addressing the Nutrition Crisis

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April 30, 2018

What is the issue?

There is no definite solution yet on what to feed children in anganwadis, to address poor child nutrition in India.

What is the nutrition scenario?

  • The National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) shows a drop in underweight and stunted children under five years of age.
  • But the absolute numbers are still high.
  • Around 35% children are underweight and 38% are stunted in that age group.
  • Many children have died of malnutrition in India.
  • The body mass index of around 22% women aged 15-49 indicates chronic energy deficiency.  
  • NFHS data show several States performing worse than the national average.
  • 'Nourishing India', NITI Aayog's recent report, refers to acute malnutrition levels of about 25% in some States.

What is the recent tussle?

  • Minister of Women and Child Development has recently made a proposal in this regard.
  • It suggested replacing ready-to-eat food as take-home dry ration with energy-dense nutrient packets.
  • It suggests offering packaged/processed fortified mixes to children.
  • These can be in powdered form and mixed with food for anganwadi beneficiaries.
  • Instead of take-home ration, 30 such packets could be dispatched to a beneficiary for a month through the postal department.
  • However, hot-cooked meal is put forth by many as unsubstitutable to address poor child nutrition.
  • These include the officials of the Ministry themselves.

What are the Nutrition Council's decisions?

  • The National Council on Nutrition (NCN) has unanimously rejected the proposal to replace ready-to-eat food.
  • Existing practice of hot cooked meals for children (3-6 years) age group would be continued.
  • Take-home ration (THR) would be continued for children (6 months-3 years), and pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • This would be as decided by the State governments in conformity with
  1. the National Foods Security Act, 2013
  2. the Supplementary Nutrition Rules, 2017
  • It was also agreed to involve mothers of anganwadi beneficiaries.
  • They would take part in preparation of meals, to ensure quality and encourage public participation.
  • The council has also directed that pilot projects be conducted in 10 select districts on cash transfers instead of take-home rations.
  • The Minster has however opposed the idea saying that there is no guarantee that beneficiaries would use the money for food.

What should be done?

  • Tinkering with the existing ICDS scheme (Anganwadi Services Scheme) is seen to be fraught with danger.
  • Attempts to substitute meals or rations with factory-made nutrients will inject commercialisation into a key mission.
  • This could upset the fundamental nutritional basis of the scheme.
  • Instead, anganwadi workers have to be empowered to ensure proper delivery of existing services.
  • Provision of physical infrastructure and funding, besides closer monitoring of anganwadi services, could be ensured.
  • Local self-help groups could be engaged to ensure “region-location based recipe and dietary diversification.”
  • Theoretically, the mission covers every child, but in practice it is not accessible to all, and this needs redressal.


Source: The Hindu


Quick Fact

POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission)

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan envisages undertaking activities to improve
  1. the service delivery system
  2. capacity building of front line functionaries
  3. community engagement for better nutritional outcomes
  • An Executive Committee is set up under the Chairpersonship of Secretary, Ministry of Women & Child Development.
  • It provides policy support and guidance to States/ UTs from time to time.
  • A National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges is set up under the Chairpersonship of Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog.

National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges

  • The National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges is headed by Vice-Chairman of the NITI Aayog.
  • It was constituted to provide policy directions to address nutritional challenges in the country.
  • It ensures effective coordination and convergence between Ministries which have a sectoral responsibility for the nutrition challenge.
  • It is also tasked to review programmes on a quarterly basis.


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