The number of children and lactating mothers suffering from acute malnutrition in West Bengal is set to rise abnormally by the next financial year, according to a report of the Union health ministry.
By 2014-15, all the 19 districts of West Bengal will come under the category of ‘heavy burden districts,’ in terms of malnutrition levels, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), conducted by the Union health ministry, said.
In 2012-13, just three districts of Birbhum, Purulia and South Dinajpur were considered heavy burden districts. During the current financial year, the number increased to eight with Burdwan, North Dinajpur, Cooch Behar, South 24 Parganas and Jalpaiguri being added to the list.
A district is considered a heavy burden district, if the malnutrition level among children and lactating mothers is higher than other districts.
Accordingly, the per head expenditure on account of special nutrition package (SNP), borne jointly by the Union and the state governments, is comparatively higher than the normal districts.
In case of normal districts, the per head cost is Rs. 4 for normal children, Rs. 6 for children suffering from severe malnutrition and Rs. 5 for pregnant and lactating mothers suffering from malnutrition.
Anemia is acute among these affected individuals, said a senior state government official.
State government sources said that currently 74 lakh individuals suffer from acute malnutrition, out of which 13 lakh are pregnant and lactating mothers and 61 lakh children. While the Centre provides 75% of the SNP cost, the state government provides the remaining 25%.
According to state government sources, with all the 19 districts coming under the “heavy burden districts” category in 201415, the state government’s expenditure on this count would increase by another Rs. 300 crore.