In its effort to bring down malnutrition cases and number of underweight children in the state, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) now plans to set up its ‘Village Child Development Centres’ (VCDC) in non-tribal areas as well. The proposal to set up VCDC in non-tribal areas will be tabled during the cabinet meeting scheduled on November 8. The department of Women and Child Development officials also admit that to bring down the number of malnourished and underweight children from the current numbers is a challenging target.
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Officials say that by restricting VCDC only to tribal areas, ICDS will be able to reach only less than half of the total children who fall under the Severely Acute Malnutrition (SAM) category (a life threatening condition) in the state.
Commissioner of ICDS, Vinita Singhal said, “We are aiming to address the issue as a whole. By having VCDC only in tribal area, we will be ignoring a huge affected parts in the state which come under the non-tribal area. Of the total 95,743 children in SAM category, only 33,628 are in tribal areas, remaining were found in non-tribal area. Hence we have prepared a proposal for the same and we will be presenting the same in the cabinet meeting on November 8.”
According to the ICDS’ August report – of the 62.84 lakh children weighed, 6.9 lakh, or 11 per cent, were found underweight. While 95,743 found severely underweight, as many as 5.98 lakh were found to be moderately underweight.
“The level of malnutrition has come down to the plateau level since the time we started closely monitoring the issue. Now the decline from here will be very slow as it is going to be very difficult for us. When we started two decades ago, the levels were almost 50 to 60 per cent high. we have managed to bring it down to less than 20 per cent,” she added.
The areas under Nandurbar, Nashik and Palghar are worst affected, as per the ICDS report. Of the 1,37,685 children weighed in Nandurbar district, 34,718 were in MAM category and 8,923 were in SAM category; in Nashik, of the 3,94,152 weighed, 36,454 were in MAM category and 6,994 in SAM category. Both Nandurbar and Nashik have highest number of SAM children in the state followed by Palghar, which like Nashik, has 6,994 children under SAM category.
Despite its urban character, the financial capital of the country, Mumbai, retains pockets where malnutrition cases continue to emerge.
Of the 2.77 lakh children weighed in Mumbai, 49,048 are moderately underweight and 2,886 are severely underweight.
Even though the WCD department and ICDS agree that the decline in the cases of malnourishment in the state is very slow and combatting it from the current level is difficult, the department claims that they have prepared an effective road map to fight the issue.