The estimated number of malnourished children studying in BMC schools is 34% according to the municipal corporation’s data. Based on the data obtained through RTI, NGO Praja Foundation has estimated the increase in malnourished children from 30,461 in 2013-14 to 1, 30,680 in 2015-16.
During 2015 -16 BMC medical officers screened 1, 89,809 students out of 3, 83,485. After screening 64,681 student’s found malnourished. But to give the possible broader perspective of situation of malnutrition in civic run school, the NGO calculated 34% on all 3, 83,485 students. As out of total 1, 93,676 students were not screened.
The most affected wards are Govandi, Mankhurd, Santa Cruz, Chembur, Colaba, Malabar Hill, Grant Road and Andheri east. The findings also days that budget utilisation on mid-day meal for the 1st and 5th standard has reduced from 81% to 65%.
“These increasing numbers indicates that malnutrition among children in municipal schools is needed to be address on serious note. The huge problem of malnutrition persists in spite of the multitude of government schemes and programmes designed to address it,” said Nitai Mehta, Managing Trustee, Praja Foundation.
“BMC need to tackle this issue on war footing for two reasons. Firstly, it shows the inadequacy of municipal schools in serving the needs of the economically weaker sections of society. Secondly, as children are the future of our country, it means that we may be frittering away our large demographic dividend,” said Mehta.
According to a white paper on health published by Praja in 2016 shows 1,19,342 diarrhoea cases as compare to 99,839 in 2012. Also 29% of diarrhoea deaths in 2015 were of children younger than 14 year.
“A large number of factors could be behind the increasing problem of child malnutrition are increasing population and no healthcare infrastructure in suburbs. Also increasing cases of diarrhoea. This indicates that diarrhoea disproportionately affects people at a younger age. The prevalence of such diseases leads to stunted development for children and an intergenerational cycle of poor health, ” said Milind Mhaske, Project Director, Praja Foundation.
The report says that 35% of girls found malnourished whereas percentage of boys were 33% during 2015-16.
“This also raises serious questions on the efficacy of the Integrated Child Development Schemes and other schemes aimed at improving the nutrition of children. If the children are most malnourished in their early years of schooling, then the gaps in schemes need to be identified. The elective representatives should also pay attention on this,” said Mhaske.
Dr Samir Dalwai, President of Indian Academy of Paediatrics Mumbai (IAP) Mumbai said, “There are 3 causes of urban malnutrition. Poor awareness about nutrition which may be seen even in higher economic group; but lack of nutrients and poor primary healthcare are the reasons for child belonging to lower socio economic strata”.
Explaining further he said, “Lack of primary healthcare is responsible because when a child suffers from diarrhea, respiratory and other infections, the child’s digestion and nutrition intake suffers. So the child may become malnourished. Government and other local health bodies should focus on primary healthcare as well as proper implementation of midday meals and other schemes to control this situation”.