New Delhi: Highlighting that 42 per cent children were underweight in a country witnessing high growth, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today described it as a national shame and said the government could not rely solely on ICDS, a programme for early childhood development, to address it.
"...the problem of malnutrition is a matter of national shame. Despite impressive growth in our GDP, the level of under-nutrition in the country is unacceptably high," he said releasing a report on Hunger and Malnutrition (HUNGaMA) here. (Read: Full text of PM's speech at the release of the HUNGaMA Report)
Pointing out that India had not succeeded in reducing the levels of malnutrition fast enough, he said, "Though the ICDS continues to be our most important tool to fight malnutrition, we can no longer rely solely on it."
The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme is a major national programme that addresses the health and nutrition needs of children under the age of six.
The HUNGaMA report states that the prevalence of child underweight has decreased from 53 per cent to 42 per cent, marking a 20.3 per cent fall over a seven year period with an average annual rate of reduction of 2.9 per cent.
The survey found that the rates of child malnutrition were still unacceptably high in the 100 focus districts with the poorest child development indicators where over 40 per cent of children were underweight and almost 60 per cent stunted.
"We need to focus on districts where malnutrition levels are high and where conditions causing malnutrition prevail," Singh said.
He said policy makers and programme implementers need to clearly understand many linkages - between education and health, sanitation and hygiene, drinking water and nutrition and then shape their responses accordingly.