Governance failure leads to malnutrition

More funding will not curb the menace



In spite of the impressive growth in the economic sector, India remains home to one-third of the world’s undernourished children and this reflects a failure in governance, a document published by the Institute of Development Studies, UK, said.

“Nutrition practices exclude   large groups of individuals and benefits often do not reach those who need them,” the report, which was released here on Wednesday, said.
It also argued that although the government’s Integrated Child Development Services  plan has committed a four-fold increase of approximately 170 million pounds since 2008 to tackle malnutrition, this money would be wasted unless it was better targeted.

Though the real GDP per capita in India grew by 3.95 per cent per year between 1992-2006, the percentage of underweight infants under the age of three in India only fell from 52 to 46 per cent.

“Normally we expect economic growth and improved nutrition to go hand-in-hand but at the current rate India will not reach the Millennium Development Goals –– to reduce the number of people suffering from hunger by 50 per cent by 2015 ––  until 2043,” said Lawrence Hadda, Director of the Institute of Development Studies and co-editor of the report.

“By failing to reach this target, the Indian government is condemning a further generation to brain damage, poorer education and early death that result from malnutrition,” he said.

The report alleged that nutrition services excluded large groups of individuals including lower castes, women and girls from accessing quality services. “The benefits of economic growth have not trickled down to the poor, whilst the wealthy are increasingly using private services,” the report said.

Mission mode

Admitting that the problem of tackling malnutrition should have addressed in a mission mode, Dr Shreeranjan, a senior bureaucrat with the Women and Child Development Ministry, said a new programme for the well-being of the adolescent girls was in the pipeline, which would also address their nutritional needs.

The Centre is also considering a maternity benefit scheme providing cash relief to new mothers to meet the nutritional needs of children and also to get proper food for themselves.

“This will be initially launched on a pilot basis in 90 districts and will be given directly to the beneficiaries,” he said.

The study, funded by the UK Department for International Development, recommended setting up new mechanisms that might enable different government departments to work together to deliver food, care and health in combinations. It also suggested that local communities should be able to rate and publish their opinion about local nutrition services.

It also observed that the Comptroller and Auditor General should be given a bigger role in monitoring government action on nutrition.

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