In the recently concluded Budget session of the parliament, the Centre informed that data on nutritional indicators is captured under the National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) conducted periodically by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The last round, NFHS-5, was conducted during 2019-21 and as per it, the prevalence of stunting, wasting and underweight among children under 5 years of age is 35.5%, 19.3% and 32.1% respectively and the prevalence of underweight among women is 18.7%. According to the survey, 7.7% of children under 5 years of age are severely wasted.
Further, under Poshan Tracker, the ICT application for monitoring service delivery under Mission Poshan 2.0, out of approximately 5.6 crore children measured in the month of February 2023, the percentage of malnourished (moderate and severe) children is 7.7%.
In context with Jammu and Kashmir, the prevalence of underweight is 21%, Stunting 26.9% and Wasting is 19% in children under 5 years as per NFHS-5.
Stunting, experts believe, has lifelong consequences on human capital, poverty and equity. It leads to less potential in education and fewer professional opportunities.
To address various policy and systemic gaps, the minister says the ICDS and Anganwadi Services schemes have been re-evaluated by the concerned Ministry in respect of programme design, implementation process, outcome and impact and for re-assessing the relevance of the programme in achieving its aims and goals.
The Government says that it has accorded high priority to the issue of malnutrition and is implementing several schemes like POSHAN Abhiyaan, Anganwadi Services, Scheme for Adolescent Girls and Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) as direct targeted interventions to address the problem of malnutrition in the country.
POSHAN Abhiyaan launched on 8th March 2018, aims to achieve improvement in nutritional status of Adolescent Girls, Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers in a time bound manner by adopting a synergised and result oriented approach. The Abhiyaan has been rolled out across 36 States/UTs. Further, the government says, the efforts under the Supplementary Nutrition Programme under Anganwadi Services and POSHAN Abhiyaan have been rejuvenated and converged as ‘Saksham Anganwadi and POSHAN 2.0’. It seeks to address the challenges of malnutrition in children, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers through a strategic shift in nutrition content and delivery and by creation of a convergent eco-system to develop and promote practices that nurture health, wellness and immunity.
All the stakeholders must ensure better supplements. Effective monitoring and implementation of various programmes as well as critically evaluating various aspects need to be taken to address malnutrition and prioritising the reduction of child undernutrition in overall context.