- Many children have died of malnutrition in India and yet Women and Child Development Ministers over the years haven’t decided what food to give children in anganwadis. This is worrying.
Data on malnutrition:
- 38% of children are stunted and 35.7% are underweight in India.
- About 21% of children under the age of five are wasted (low weight for height), according to the National Family Health Survey-4 data.
Opting for easy option
- This government and last government (of the UPA) have always exercised the easy option: dense, fortified food for malnourished children, courtesy the manufacturers
The Ministry of Women and Child Development is considering a new option
- The ministry is now favoring a quickly served, nutrients-fortified alternative
- While officers of the Ministry are batting for take-home rations that are locally available and processed
- It is an old debate; one that involves big biscuit-makers and assorted corn puff manufacturers on the one hand and social activists on the other, with children caught in between
Learning from the past
- Eight years ago, when malnutrition deaths occurred in some districts in Maharashtra, a simple solution involving a protein-rich diet called Lapsi was given to malnourished babies
(Lapsi: a green millet mixture combined with water and milk)
- In Jharkhand, dry rations such as oil, dal, wheat or rice were given to mothers
(until the contractor lobby forced the government to shift in favour of processed food)
- These solutions were very effective
- We should address malnourishment through locally produced, diverse food options that the country offers