‘Menace of malnutrition needs humane solution,’ states Smriti Irani

National Advisory Panel for Agri Nutrition to be set up. Woman and child development minister, Smriti Irani chairs 5th National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges

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The Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Zubin Irani, chaired the 5th National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges today in New Delhi.

In her keynote address Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister said that a humane solution has to be developed to tackle the menace of malnutrition in India and for this the economic benefits of investing in nutrition has to be highlighted and propagated.

The WCD Minister quoted the World Bank Global Nutrition Report – 2018 which says that malnutrition costs India at least USD 10 billion annually in terms of lost productivity, illness and death and is seriously retarding improvements in human development and further reduction of childhood mortality.

POSHAN is an exercise for life for all citizens and should not be limited to women and children, she further stated.

WCD Minister informed that the Ministry along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Deendayal Research Institute is developing a POSHAN atlas to map the crops and foodgrains grown in different regions of the country because the solution to tackling malnutrition lies in promoting regional cropping patterns and embracing local food that are rich in protein.

The WCD Minister suggested that in order to acknowledge the unsung heroes of the POSHAN Abhiyaan, who work tirelessly and selflessly for the cause of nutrition like the Aganwadi and ASHA workers, a system of ranking of states on health and nutritional parameters may be developed and for this NITI Aayog may develop a framework for the states to rank districts.

Minister further suggested that the process of ranking may involve citizens and civil society.

During the meeting of the Council, presentations were made by the Ministry of WCD, NITI Aayog and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare regarding implementation of the POSHAN Abhiyaan by the states.

Discussions took place in detail about the challenges being faced in aspirational districts and in the states that are lagging behind.

The need for capacity building and improving the quality of health workers has to take place on war footing so that all Anganwadi workers may be trained in the use of smartphone and other tools to upload the data on the dashboard successfully.

Success stories of innovative schemes by states and initiatives to tackle malnutrition were shared during the discussions. It was decided to document all good practices of the states and the innovative schemes that were implemented during the POSHAN Maah observed in September this year.

WCD Ministry placed before the Council the report of the POSHAN Maah observed in September 2019. During the month long POSHAN Abhiyaan 22 lakh programmes were held and 3.66 crore activities were organised in different parts of the country.

Village Health, Sanitation and Nutrition Day (VHSND) programmes were also organised in 7.86 lakh places.

For the success of POSHAN Maah WCD Minister visited 9 states, met 11 Chief Ministers and Governors, along with officials of the NITI Aayog and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and appealed to them to participate and support the POSHAN Abhiyaan of the Government of India.

WCD Minister personally wrote letters to Members of Parliament, Members of Legislative Assemblies, district panchayat presidents and city mayors appealing to them to wholeheartedly be a part of the POSHAN Abhiyaan.

WCD Ministry also held a workshop to guide the states for the POSHAN Abhiyaan. Regular reviews were held with the State Government officials. WCD Minister held video conferences with District Magistrates of the aspirational districts and she also reviewed the work being done during the POSHAN Maah with states and Union Territories through video conferences.

The WCD Minister thanked Prime Minister of India for taking up the subject of POSHAN during Maan ki Baat on 25th August 2019 which had a country wide impact. She also thanked all State Governments and District Administration for making the POSHAN Maah a success.

However, she stressed that this battle may not be restricted to only one month in a year but has to be fought every day if India has to eradicate the scourge of malnutrition, stunting and wasting.

The 5th National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges was attended by Secretary WCD, Rabindra Panwar, Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, Swati Singh, WCD Minister, Uttar Pradesh, Mamta Bhupesh, Minister of WCD, Rajasthan and other senior officials from Ministries of Health and Family Welfare, Agriculture, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Rural Development, Tribal Affairs, Panchayati Raj, Consumer Affairs and Food, Finance, Human Resource Development, Housing and Urban Affairs, Information and Broadcasting and Environment Forest and Climate Change.

The Council was also attended by representatives of Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Nutrition, Food Safety & Standards Authority of India, Tata Trust, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and World Bank.

The National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges is mandated to provide policy directions to address India’s nutritional challenges through a coordinated inter sectoral action; coordinate and review convergence between Ministries; and review programmes for nutrition on a quarterly basis.