Amid a three-day global meet scheduled in Mumbai, the Union health ministry and the state government are set to draft improvements in policies for complementary feeding of children aged between six months and two years in order to achieve World Health Assembly’s goal to reduce stunted growth by 40 per cent in children aged less than five years by 2025.
This is the first time that four departments in the state government — women and child development, public health, tribal development, and Jijamata Mother and Child Nutrition Mission — will work together to form an integrated system of providing nutritional support to pregnant women and infants.
According to the latest data gathered from the public health department, stunted growth has reduced by 17 per cent from 2005 till 2012 across Maharashtra while underweight children have reduced by a smaller percentage in the same period at seven per cent. A four per cent drop has also been noticed in wasting (acute malnutrition) in the same period.
The government now aims to further reduce cases of malnourishment by improving “take-home rations” and creating a systematic process of categorising severely undernourished children from moderately undernourished. Data from 2011-2012 till September 2015 shows that of the 5.3 lakh children referred to Village Child Development Camp (VCTC), 3.9 lakh children’s health improved after availaing free complementary nutrition.
At Nutrition Rehabilitation Centers (NHRs), where severely undernourished children are admitted for 14 days, of 2,439 children, there was improvement in 2,102 children.
“After the discussions in the meet, we will make improvements in the complementary feeding programmes in Maharashtra. There is a need to inculcate iron and nutrients in daily diet, which is not sufficient in rural mothers,” said Sujata Saunik, Principal Health Secretary.
According to Vineeta Singh, attached with the Integrated Child Development Scheme, improper feeding practices also lead to malnutrition.