According to data from surveys conducted by the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS),the number of severely undernourished children in Dharavi has seen a slight rise over the past three years,while that of moderately underweight children has registered a dip.
The number of severely undernourished children has risen from 274 in 2011 to 353 in 2012,and to 373 till June this year. The percentage of severely undernourished children of total children surveyed rose from 1.6 to 1.7 in 2012,and to 1.8 in 2013.
The severely undernourished count has gone up because the number of children surveyed in 2011was 16,250 amd in 2013 it was 19,741, said Mahendra Gaikwad,child development programme officer (CDPO) in Dharavi.
In the past two years,Dharavi,populated with around 20,000 children,has observed a slight drop in moderately underweight children – from 20.4 per cent of children surveyed in 2011 to 15.2 per cent in June 2013.
Gaikwad credits the Anganwadi scheme for the dip in malnutrition figures,stating that it has brought awareness regarding improved nutritional practices in the slum,specifically amongst pregnant women.
The ICDS used a growth monitoring machine while focusing on children aged between six months to six years,and categorised them under three heads normally nourished,moderately underweight and severely undernourished children. In October 2011,78 per cent of the children surveyed in Dharavi were normally nourished,20.4 per cent moderately underweight and 1.6 per cent severely undernourished.
Our aim was to shift children from moderately underweight to normally nourished category, Gaikwad said.
The ICDS also changed its strategy after 2012. We formed groups based on health and provided free supplementary nutrition. We also taught parents basic health practices. It is sad to see that slum-dwellers are unaware of proper diet and health practices, he added.
According to NGO SNEHA (Society for Nutrition,Education and Health Action),supplementary nutrition consists of poha,laddoo,khichdi,sprouted beans and daliya. In June 2013,there was a rise in normally nourished children (83 per cent) and decline in moderately undernourished children (15.2 per cent).
We work in tandem with the government and appoint volunteers who visit each and every household to spread awareness, said Sharmila Kher,media relations officer of SNEHA.
35-year-old Nanda Shivram,who has three children,said that her youngest son weighed only two kilos when he was born. The Anganwadi teacher came to assist me after my third pregnancy. She told me about the injections I need to take,routine checkups and got my sons and my weight measured every month. My sons condition improved because I could feed him properly, she said.