Mid-day meal scheme fails to fight malnutrition

The decade-old mid-day meal scheme for primary school children, rolled out with the twin aims of fighting malnutrition and improving attendance by providing cooked food, still appears too little to fight the menace of malnutrition in many states, including Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.

A large number of elementary school children are suffering from “severe” malnutrition in as many as nine states, with the highest figure of 31 per cent girls and 24 per cent boys being recorded in Uttar Pradesh.

In Tamil Nadu, the percentage of such boys is 24.30 while it is 14 per cent among girls enrolled in elementary schools. Gujarat has 17.87 per cent severely malnourished boys and 9.83 per cent girls.

The nutritional status of school children has been brought to fore by a joint review mission, set up by Human Resource Development Ministry to assess implementation and impact of the mid-day meal scheme during 2013-14. The central team, in its report to the HRD Ministry, has recommended immediate medical intervention for these children. The team has visited 18 states so far. It examined 384 boys and 452 girls to determine their nutritional status in Uttar Pradesh; 436 boys and 366 girls in Tamil Nadu; and 263 boys, and 295 girls in Gujarat.

In Delhi, the team found 13.46 per cent boys and 4.48 per cent girls were severely malnourished at the schools visited by it. As many as 8.84 per cent boys and 10.34 per cent girls were found severly malnourished in Assam. The team found many children suffering from malnourishment in Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Tripura also.

During its visits to the states, the team also found large number of children “moderately” malnourished, recommending that the respective state governments should consider providing them additional meals. To determine the nutritional status, it carried out anthropometric measurements and clinical assessments as well as looked into dietary pattern of children.

“The children falling under the category of moderately malnourished require additional meals. The states and union territories concerned need to concentrate on the issues to resolve the problem. If these children receive proper nutrition their nutritional status can be enhanced,” the central team suggested.

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