Though there is considerable improvement in nutrition scenario of the state, there are still glaring gaps in managing malnutrition in the hotspot districts of the state like Sheopur, Satna, Khandwa and others, member of National Commission for Protection of Children's Rights (NCPCR), Vandana Prasad has said.
Speaking to HT at the conclusion of her three-day visit to the state, Prasad said that the state did not seem to be focusing enough on the malnutrition-hit areas, which is evident by the severe shortage of trained field staff and other resources in these areas. Also the supporting schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), public distribution system and Antyodaya scheme for poor families were not working effectively in the districts.
Pushing resources to these areas and effectively implementing the schemes should be priority for the government, she said.
As for the long-term solution, the expert said that community based management of malnutrition is imperative in state. She explained that community based management would mean that the growth of children should be rigorously monitored at community level and these children should be provided additional nutritious food that should be directly fed to the malnourished children under supervision. "The additional nutrition should be calorie-dense, protein rich food made of locally available material," Prasad, who is also a paediatrician and nutrition expert, said.
She said that it is heartening to see that the state was alert to these aspects and has several plans afoot and has pioneered efforts like the Atal Child Nutrition Mission and setting up of nutrition rehabilitation centres (NRCs). "They have the plans ready and also have the budget, but the things have not started rolling out yet and benefits of the schemes are yet to be seen," Prasad said.
Prasad further said that having NRCs for the severe acute malnourished (SAM) children is fine, but not the final solution, as the centres only could save lives, but not manage severe malnutrition in long term. "International studies show that 85% malnourished children could be treated at community level and shouldn't need to go to NRCs," she said.
The fact that the state has burden of 8.3 lakh SAM children and has only 3320 NRC beds itself shows that these centres cannot be expected to cope with the scenario.
Prasad on Thursday met the principal secretary BR Naidu and commissioner Manohar Agnani of women and child development department and also senior officials of health department. Earlier on Tuesday and Wednesday, she had visited malnutrition-hit Sheopur and Satna districts.