Chief minister Raghubar Das on Friday launched the Nutrition Mission Jharkhand (NMJ) and set a 10-year deadline of 2015 to eradicate malnutrition and curb undernourishment in the state.
Under the mission, the government will serve eggs—a source of high protein—with meals for children on the line of the midday meals at anganwadi centres across the state from the next fiscal, said Das.
The state social welfare department and the UN agency for children—Unicef—signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly run the mission in Jharkhand, a state where 47% children are undersized and 42% are underweight, according to the Unicef’s Rapid Survey on Children 2013-14.
The proportion of stunting among children in the tribal state has fallen from 49.8% a decade ago, to 47.4% now. There has been similar improvement in other measures of malnutrition in the state. The malnutrition rate among children under five years have fallen from 56.5% to 42.1%.
Social welfare department officials said that by 2025 resources will be engaged to reduce undersize and underweight children under the age five by 20%, the rate of anaemia by 10% and increase breastfeeding by 10% for infants under six month.
Officials said that the stress will be given on the merging the department’s social welfare, health, drinking water and sanitation and human resource development units, to implement the mission.
“If these targets are achieved, undernourishment will be controlled in Jharkhand,” said Vinay Kumar Choubey, the mission director of NMJ.
The NMJ will monitor a child’s health indicators for 1,000 days from birth, he said.
He further said that failing to curb undernourishment within the time frame would make it an irreversible problem leading to under development of the child.
The mission document said that the NMJ’s goals were to promote breastfeeding within an hour of the child’s birth, ensure breastfeeding for six months, monitor the nutrition intakes of the child at home as well at the anganwadi centre, sensitize parents and check anaemia among adolescent girls.
Unicef Jharkhand chief Madhulika Jonathan said, “Unicef will play the role of ensuring capacity building of officers and workers.”
“As partners we will also ensure advocacy and communication programmes under the mission.”
Officials said that the NMJ conceived in May this year will be headed by a steering committee led by the mission director and will have nodal officers for the five divisions of the state to implement the project.
State nutrition mission officials said that it will work on the lessons learnt and suggestions of the Maharashtra Nutrition Mission, which has successfully curbed the problem in the state, after it was launched in 2005.