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Saturday, November 27, 2010

UNDERNOURISHMENT: A SERIOUS CONCERN IN BIHAR

The Bihar government boasts of high development in infrastructure, service sector, telecom sector but child nutrition, women and adolescent girls' development is not focused. Figures in nutrition is not shinning. Over 50% of children are malnourished. Progress in human development, particularly children's physical and mental development, education have to be accelerated. If Bihar wants to remove stigma of malnutrition deaths which are more than any sub-Saharan violence torn African state, politicians have to give first priority to " nutrition" in their political agenda.

The state should adopt something like " Nutrition Program" under a separate department to give focus on coherence and urgency to efforts to eradicate "undernutrition" in a time bound frame. The departments should coordinate with NGOs working in combating under nutritionally affected poor marginalized families for awareness campaign and monitoring.

Prime Minister's council on nutrition exists. But it seems that it is not functioning effectively. It has not met since its creation 18 months ago.

Rotting grains in the open and misuse of funds on various meaningless projects while millions and millions of poor are dying without food is a matter concerning governance.

Anganwadi Centers are 80211 in number in Bihar. There is no doubt the number has increased from few thousand to lakhs, but condition of the centers, workloads on Anganwadi workers and their honorarium is as poor as that of 1990s. Many of them lacks toilets, washing facilities, clean drinking water, own building, food storage facilities, weighing machines, decent roofs and floors, honorarium is very low and irregular. It is no wonder that centers have not made any significant impact on nutrition status.

The question is how to make ICDS centers more efficient and workers more responsible, more skillful and more combative in reducing under-nutrition. How nutritious food will reach centers and distributed amongst beneficiaries?

Under nutrition retards the growth of a child. It squeezes life out of a kid without any clinical sign. It affects mainly poor. It requires raising up of quality of food, purchasing power and equitable distribution. All these can not be possible without strong political leadership.

         Some measures can be useful to overcome undernutrition.
·       It is required that investment should be increased to produce not only cereals but many other nourishing food items. A political atmosphere is to be grated where all political parties give priority to removal of malnutrition in their political agenda.             
·       A political atmosphere is to be created where all political parties give priority to removal of malnutrition in their political agenda.
·       Creation of new surveillance system linking all Anganwadis through computer network.
·       Allotted funds for the given period should be fully utilized in the manner that pilferage does not take place.
·       Anganwadi workers have to be paid reasonable well and on time. Incentives have to be given to make them focused and motivated.
·       CDPO, the concerned official at district level should be provided with vehicle and other facilities. Their increment in salary should be only based on the assessment of nutritional status of children.
·       People should be encouraged to vote for politicians-- Mukhia, MLA, MP who help in raising nutritional situation in their constituencies.
·       Raise a new band of nutrition activists who will campaign from village to village for reduction in malnutrition level.


Bringing in private companies into the realm of health of children will only result in heavy profit for them. Competing with each other for profit they may even damage health of poor children.

Malnutrition is a serious social problem of a very high magnitude. It is a Herculean task.  It is not possible for the government to root it out on its own. But, the leadership, resources have to come from it. Business houses, civil society and academic community and international donors can play important catalytic role to help eradicate undernutrition. 

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