1 in 3 students in Mumbai’s civic schools are malnourished, finds survey
Mumbai city news: NGO Praja Foundation screened 1,89,809 students out of total 3,83,485 in 2015-16 and found 64,681 malnourished in 2015-16mumbai Updated: May 31, 2017 12:18 IST
The mid-day meal programme in Mumbai’s municipal schools seems to have little success in improving the health of children as malnutrition among students from Class 1 to 9 jumped four times to 34% in 2015-16 compared to 8% in 2013-14, a study by an non-government organistaion revealed. It means that every third student in city’s civic schools is malnourished.
NGO Praja Foundation screened 1,89,809 students out of total 3,83,485 in 2015-16 and found 64,681 malnourished in 2015-16. In 2013-14, there were 53,408 malnutrition students out of 2,01,597 who were checked.
There was also a slight gender disparity as 35% (34,222) of the girl students were found to be malnourished against 33% (30,459) of the boys.
Explaining the reason for the four-fold increase in malnutrition cases, Milind Mhaske, project director of Praja Foundation, said the impact of various anti-malnutrition schemes such as Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and mid day meals was not discussed to make them more robust and effective. “The numbers are startling. While the programmes go on there is no data collection or analysis to focus on problem areas and identify sectors which could be improved,” said Mhaske.
The report showed that schools run by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had failed to cater to the dietary needs of the disadvanataged groups of society, said experts. “The BMC has for long staked its reputation on penguins (imported from South Korea to Byculla zoo). It seemd to have taken taken inspiration from ostriches to neglect health of students,” said Nitai Mehta, founder and trustee of Praja Foundation.
The researchers said that the four-fold rise in the number of malnourished students in two years was extremely concerning. The BMC, the richest municipal corporation in India, increased the budget for mid-day meals for Class 1-5 students from Rs29 crore to Rs 32 crore in the corresponding period. Similarly, the budget for mid-day meals for Class 6-8 students increased from Rs33crore to Rs39 crore.
“The utilisation of the budget has seen a sharp dip from 81% to 65% for Class 1-5 students; from 83% to 64% for Class 6-8 children. Clearly, lack of funds is not a problem, but the implementation is,” added Mehta.
Among the 24 municipal wards which were studied to prepare the report, M-East ward (Chembur East, Govandi, Mankhurd and Anushakti Nagar) and H-East ( Santacruz and Bandra) fared worst with each recording 51% of malnutirtion students. M-East ward has been in news for spread of tuberculosis owing to its proximity to the Deonar dumping ground. The living conditions are also poor in the area whcih has one of the largest slums in the city.
Mehta added the number of malnourished children has actually seen a greater increase in higher classes than in lower classes. Between 2013-14 and 2015-16, malnourished students in BMC schools in Class I increased by 246% (3,123 to 10,802). In the same period, malnourished students in Class 5 shot up by 308% (2,591 to 10,562). “This raises serious questions on the efficacy of the mid-day meals being provided by the civic body to students,” said Mehta.