Chief Minister Anandiben Patel on Monday asserted that malnutrition in Gujarat has fallen by 25 per cent over the last five years, and figures in the contentious UNICEF report were based on old statistics from 2004-2005.
Patel, who was attending a local body event in Kheda district, also appealed to philanthropists to “adopt malnourished children”. At a function to mark the commissioning of Seva Sadan of the newly-created Vaso taluka, the Chief Minister, according to an official release, said: “Philanthropists should contribute generously to the state government’s campaign against malnutrition and adopt such children in the anganwadis and perform the social responsibility.”
The Chief Minister’s statement that the state has witnessed decline in malnutrition came amid claims and counter-claims over yet-to-be released UNICEF’s Rapid Survey on Children.
Union Health Minister J P Nadda on the floor of Lok Sabha in December 2014 had said that a Government of India child-care programme for age group of 0-6 years — for the last three financial years — shows that the number of moderately and severely malnourished children in Gujarat had reduced from 13.30 lakh in 2011-12, to 9.07 lakh in 2013-14. He added it was better than the national average, where the number of malnourished children was over 27 per cent.
The CAG, however, in its performance audit of Integrated Child Development Programme in 2013 had said that every third child in Gujarat was underweight. The report was tabled in the Assembly that year.
The state government’s own reply in the Assembly in February 2014 said that there were 2,270 highly malnourished children in Kheda district itself from where Patel made the appeal on Monday. According to reply by the then child and women development minister Ganpatsinh Vasava, more than 1.62 lakh malnourished children were in six districts alone, including Ahmedabad, and 31,300 highly malnourished children in 16 districts of the state as of December 31, 2013. According to his reply, there are 50,357 malnourished and 4,930 highly malnourished children in Ahmedabad district alone. And, in state capital Gandhinagar, there are 15,970 malnourished and 1,849 highly malnourished children.
The number of malnourished and highly malnourished children is more than 55,000 in Banaskantha, nearly 33,800 in Surendranagar and around 7,500 each in Junagadh and Gir Somnath.
Besides, there are over 5,500 highly malnourished children in Surat, over 3,500 in Surendranagar, more than 2,800 in Banaskantha, around 2,400 in Anand, 2,270 in Kheda and 2,200 in the Panchmahals.
Among other districts, there are over 1,000 highly malnourished children in Amreli, Sabarkantha and Aravalli. The number ranges from 566 to 893 for smaller districts like Mahisagar, Gir Somnath and Navsari.