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Public systems that failed to address malnutrition: Study

Posted:  Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A recent report highlighted the fact on how the current measures under Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and Public Health are failing to deal with the rising needs of severely malnourished children.

These were the results from the research conducted by Nutrition Rights Coalition with the assistance of 6 non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The research was conducted across tribal, rural and urban areas of Maharashtra covering 55 children with severe under weight (SUW). The report was released at a 2 day state level convention recently concluded in Mumbai.

The following were the observations from the report:

Lack of consistency in detecting Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM): According to the report, there were no consistent criteria to identify children with SAM due to which they did not receive any treatment from ICDS. The report also finds that ICDS focuses on only treatment for children with SAM rather than taking preventive measures early on.

Failure to immunise: The report notes that only 3 out of 31 malnourished children received complete immunisation

Failures in implementation of existing government schemes: Experts present in the convention noted that the provisions of the Food Security Act were not implemented. In addition, the results of studies on THR (Take Home Ration) also found that THR packets came down from 11% in 2013 to 5% in 2014. Much to the expert’s disdain, due to the poor quality of raw materials, 79% of the household reported feeding the THR ration to animals

Gaps in nutrition: The report elaborates that there was lack of appropriate and adequate supplementary nutrition provided to the children. In addition, introduction of complementary feeding was also delayed. This was compounded by ineffective communication from the anganwadi workers.

Gaps in health services: There was lack of regular health checkups of children and inadequate referral for illness.

Varying priorities: The experts noted that ICDS budget had been slashed by a whopping 50% by the central government and the Maharashtra government by 4.5%.

The report also provides some solutions by suggesting increasing the number of anganwadi workers for better communication and follow ups. In addition, experts at the convention also suggested daily hot cooked meals or locally produced dry, nutritious food instead of the current commercial THR packets.

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