Civic schools in Mumbai not only have a significant number of underweight children, but also several overweight students, data obtained through Right to Information (RTI) recently has revealed. In 2018-19, at least 1,421 children were found overweight, while as many as 7,383 were found underweight, it stated.
The data, released by Praja foundation, a non-profit organisation, Tuesday, also revealed that while the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had allocated Rs 25 crore for supplementary nutrition of schoolchildren, the budget had not been utilised at all. “The BMC said it is yet to finalise the contract for supplementary nutrition.
“They plan to give peanuts to children apart from regular mid-day meals,” Jennifer Spencer, project coordinator at Praja, said.
The data also showed that while city anganwadis or day-care shelters for children, recorded 17 per cent underweight children in Mumbai, municipal schools, which have children till Class X, had only three per cent underweight children.
“BMC follows body mass index to measure undernutrition which has led to lower rates. The World Health Organisation mandates weight for age to calculate undernutrition,” Spencer said.
Children were found overweight due to higher intake of junk food and poor dietary pattern, the data indicated. It is estimated that rate of overweight children would increase in private schools across the city.
The highest rate of overweight children was noted in Malabar Hill and Grant Road areas (D ward) at 2.2 per cent, while the lowest overweight rate, at zero per cent, was found in neighbouring C ward, comprising Marine Lines area.
Of 2.26 lakh children screened in municipal schools, maximum rate of underweight children were found in Parel (F South), Malad (P North) and Govandi and Mankhurd region (M East).
Children in municipal schools were also found to suffer from dental problems with 98,658 (43 per cent) having tooth decay or cavity problem. Vitamin deficiency was also high among children, with at least 2,212 having vitamin A deficiency, and another 1,652 deficient in vitamins B, C, D and E in 2018-19.
Officials with Praja foundation said BMC must follow guidelines of Women and Child Development and WHO to measure undernutrition. “The low rates are an underestimation,” Nitai Mehta, managing trustee at Praja, said.