Friday, 4 October 2013

Over 65,000 malnourished children in Karnataka, says NGO Health August 28, 2013 at 3:01 pm


The various government schemes designed to eradicate malnutrition from state seem to have failed to hit the bull’s eye. The number of infant deaths in the state because of malnutrition seems to have remained unchanged.


As per government statistics, there are over 65,000 malnourished children in Karnataka, says an NGO, United Ways of Bangalore (UWBe), citing figures from National Family Health Survey. Belgaum tops the list with 7,587, followed by Raichur (6,089), Bellary (5,258), Koppal (4,496), Gulbarga (4,436) and Bidar (1,216). Those figures, however, contrast with the data provided by Karnataka minister for women and child development Umashree in the assembly on July 22, that the state has only 3,549 children suffering from malnutrition. (Also read: Why the Govt’s Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation Programme won’t produce desired results (Exclusive interview with Dr A.K.Susheela)


Though more than 90% of kids under the age of six are in areas covered by anganwadis, only 36% of them actually received services of some kind from these centres, according to UWBe.


‘The government is doing its bit as far as spending money on various schemes is concerned. However, merely spending money will not help, there needs to be proper planning. It needs to ensure that food distributed to children under the age of six actually has the right amount of nutrition required for a child of that age,’ says nutritionist and scientist Dr KC Raghu. 

For instance, the state government recently agreed to supply milk to children covered by anganwadis. It agreed to include the same in their mid-day meal scheme. However, it decided to supply skimmed milk powder to kids under the age of six while those covered under mid-day meal scheme were given whole milk powder. Ideally it should have been the other way round. ‘Kids under the age of six need energy through fats and proteins. By giving them skimmed milk we are in no way addressing their health issue properly,’ says Raghu.


According to Suresh Nair, executive director, United Way of Bengaluru (UWBe), the India wing of a US not-for-profit organisation, there is little knowledge on nutrition required by kids when they under six years of age. ‘There are very few schemes run by government which cover kids in this age group. If we intend to eradicate infant mortality, we need to catch them young,’ says Nair. This can be done by educating the anganwadi workers and giving them access to clean water and a hygienic place to operate from. 

Experts even trashed government’s recent step to distribute iron tablets among schoolchildren. You need nutrition through freshly cooked meals and not tablets, say doctors.  


Statistics reveal that only 17-18% of children actually received health check-ups and growth monitoring services at anganwadi centres. Experts say that most anganwadis do not have proper buildings. 


However, anganwadi workers say despite taking care of lakhs of women and children, the government has turned a blind eye to their problems and woes. Many allege that despite repeated requests, the government has not taken any step to increase their monthly salary. 


There are 1.29 lakh anganwadi workers and assistants across the state. While the anganwadi workers are paid Rs 4,500 per month, the anganwadi assistants are paid Rs 2,500.


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