Malnutrition a national shame, says Prime Minister

| Updated on: Jan 10, 2012
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The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, expressed dismay at the problem of malnutrition despite high GDP growth and said it was a matter of national shame.

Releasing the HUNGaMA (Hunger and Malnutrition) Report-2011 here on Tuesday, Dr Singh said the level of under-nutrition in the country was "unacceptably high'’. “We have also not succeeded in reducing this rate fast enough,” he said.

“There are nearly 16 crore children in the country below the age of six years. In the years to come, these children will join our workforce as scientists, as farmers, as teachers, as data operators, as artisans, as service providers…The health of our economy and society lies in the health of this generation. We cannot hope for a healthy future for our country with a large number of malnourished children,” he said.

HUNGaMA survey

Stating that the first step in addressing the challenge of malnutrition lies in understanding it clearly, he said that it is for this reason that studies like the HUNGaMA survey are important.

The surveyors covered more than 73,000 households in 112 districts across nine states. “The results of this survey are both worrying and encouraging,” the Prime Minister said.

High levels of malnutrition

The survey reports high levels of malnutrition, but it also indicates that one child in five has reached an acceptable healthy weight during the last seven years in 100 focus districts. This 20 per cent decline in malnourishment in the last seven years is better than the rate of decline reported in National Family Health Survey - 3.

“However, what concerns me and what must concern all enlightened citizens, is that 42 per cent of our children are still underweight. This is an unacceptably high occurrence,” the Prime Minister said.

Integrated Child Development Scheme

Dr Singh said that “though the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) continues to be our most important tool to fight malnutrition, we can no longer rely solely on it. We need to focus on districts where malnutrition levels are high and where conditions causing malnutrition prevail.”

Policy makers and programme implementers need to clearly understand many linkages — between education and health, between sanitation and hygiene, between drinking water and nutrition — and then shape their responses accordingly.

“These sectors can no longer work in isolation of each other,” he stressed.

Published on March 12, 2018

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