HUNGaMA(Hunger and Malnutrition)-A Sorry tale of India

Good Nutrition is a Human Right”~UNSCN

                                                             When I first read about HUNGaMA in electronic media and subsequently the report HUNGaMa,i got astonished by the facts mentioned in the report about india’s growth in social sector especially the health sector and Food and Nutritional Security .It reminds me the sorry tale of our PDS(Public distribution system) Network which has crunched in the hands of middlemen,distributors,politicians and bureaucrats(albeit some of them fail to maintain[sic] meritocracy they were known for) with associated corruption.

                                                    The HUNGaMA (Hunger and Malnutrition) -Its a Survey conducted across 112 rural districts of India in 2011 provides reliable estimates of child nutrition covering nearly 20% of Indian children. Its objective was to understand the current situation and provide a basis for focused action.The survey was conducted by Naandi Foundation across erstwhile BIMAROU states(Bihar, Madhya Pradesh,Rajasthan,Odisha and U.P) ,now a subset of Empowered Action Group States(Excluding Uttaranchal) and in the states of Kerala,Tamilnadu and Himachal Pradesh.Off 112 districts 100 districts showed poor progress in CDI(child development indicators) and these are referred to as the 100 Focus Districts. The HUNGaMA Survey captured nutrition status of 109,093 children under five years. Data collection took place between October 2010 and February 2011 in 3,360 villages across these states. Report also states that It is also the first ever effort to make the voices of over 74,000 mothers heard.

Some of the key findings of the Report which was released recently are as follows:

  • Child malnutrition is widespread across states and districts and starts early in life: 42 per cent of children under five are underweight and 59 per cent are stunted. Of the children suffering from stunting, about half are severely stunted; about half of all children are underweight or stunted by age 24 months.
  • Birth weight is an important risk-factor for child malnutrition: the prevalence of underweight in children born with a weight below 2.5 kg is 50 per cent while that among children born with a weight above 2.5 kg is 34 per cent.
  • Girls’ nutrition advantage over boys fades away with time: The nutrition advantage girls have over boys in the first months of life seems to be reversed over time as they grow older, potentially indicating neglect vis-à-vis girls in early childhood.
  • Mothers’ education level determines children’s nutrition: the prevalence of child underweight among mothers who cannot read is 45 per cent while that among mothers with 10 or more years of education is 27 per cent; 92 per cent mothers had never heard the word “malnutrition”.
  • Anganwadi Centres are widespread but not always efficient: There is an Anganwadi Centre in 96 per cent of the villages, 61 per cent of them in pucca buildings; the Anganwadi service accessed by the largest proportion of mothers (86 per cent) is immunization; 61 per cent of Anganwadi Centres had dried rations available and 50 per cent provided food on the day of survey; only 19 per cent of the mothers reported that the Anganwadi Centre provides nutrition counseling to parents.

It’s been four years since since the National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3) results were published in 2007.the findings of NFHS-3 in terms of protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) speak for themselves.The share of the under-weight children under-3 in the total child population under-3 had not fallen at all (47% in 1998–99 and 46% in 2004–05/06). There is a need to look at food security issues not in isolation alone but with associated Nutritional outcomes as well. Government is planning much more to come out of this mess but implementation has failed miserably ..govt has rolled out many schemes but simply planning doesn’t work. We as a part of society and all the stakeholders should understand the necessity of Nutrition for our future generations, as many of us in our country on every now and then occasions proudly or pseudo-proudly say “These young children are the future of India” .One must understand this in its true spirit. Victoria CG in one of her articles says “The science is clear that the first 1,000 days after conception are the most important. Intervening within this period will have life-long and life-changing impacts on educational attainment, labour capacity, reproductive health and adult earnings. If we wait until a child is two years old, the effects of undernutrition are already irreversible”.

                                                      Social and economic backwardness is aggravated by inequality in access to information. Government ,NGO’s and people should participate in creating awareness among illiterates,in villages and in targeted areas about nutrition ,nutritional value and other government schemes and their benefits to respective individuals. In this 24×7 information overload age, an aggressive education-communication campaign using multiple media and formats seems to be the obvious opportunity to tap for reaching out to our rural populations.

Its very interesting to note that the idea of this survey was triggered by young leaders most of them young Turks from our parliament,subsequently in the name of Citizens’ Alliance against Malnutrition

With inputs from HUNGaMa Report.


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