Malnourished children in state to get Spirulina boost

Malnourished children in state to get Spirulina boost

The Department of Women and Child Development has launched a dietary supplement programme for anganwadi children in Karnataka claiming that the initiatives carried out by three major corporates had yielded positive results in addressing malnutrition.

As announced in the state budget, the department has decided to administer Spirulina to severely malnutritioned anganwadi children in the state. The plant-based dietary supplement will be supplied to the children in sugar-coated granular form.

According to the department’s data, there are 23,295 “severely malnutritioned” children. But, it has set aside a budget of Rs 3.6 crore for administering Spirulina to 25,000 children.

The department will be also adopting the module experimented by the three corporates - JSW Foundation, Scania and Biocon Foundation. It will be administering two grams of Spirulina per day per child for 180 days, as recommended by JSW Foundation.

In its concept note, the department has stated that the pilot programme carried out by it, in association with JSW Foundation in Sandur taluk in Ballari, has brought down malnutrition levels from 33 per cent to eight per cent. Following this, a decision was taken to supply Spirulina to all the districts in Karnataka.

According to sources, the concept is being treated with scepticism by many in the department, especially with regard to sourcing Spirulina. There are apprehensions that the dietary supplement will be procured from a single source.

The department, which is yet to get approvals from the Planning and Finance departments, also has a major challenge ahead of it. It has to carry out extensive IEC (information, education and communication) campaigns to convince the parents of these children about administering Spirulina.

When contacted, Women and Child Development department’s additional chief secretary, Rajneesh Goel, said research had shown that Spirulina helped ensure better absorption of nutrients, as it was rich in iron and protein. The department will work with the three companies.

Tenders will be floated for procuring Spirulina, Goel said.

‘Doodh peda’

Retired food and nutrition professor of the University of Mysore, Saraswathi, who has worked as a consultant for the department, said that if Spirulina is processed or stored improperly, it could result in vomiting and diarrhoea.

The department could instead supply milk products like ‘doodh peda’, which not only has concentrated energy, but is also psychologically stimulating for children who largely enjoy eating sweets.

Goel said that the department would apply for certification to ensure that Spirulina is properly sourced and supplied.

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