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Government to revamp nutrition drive

Alarm sounds after report reveals number of underweight minors is still too high

Rita Joseph, New Delhi

January 13, 2012

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The Indian government is looking to revitalize a nationwide campaign against widespread malnutrition, following the release of a report this week, the results of which the prime minister called a “national shame.” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said his government intends to revamp the Integrated Child Development Scheme in 200 districts where malnutrition levels are particularly high. "We are considering employing an extra worker in all ‘Anganwadis’ [government sponsored mother and child care centers] to visit homes and spread nutrition awareness among women and children,” the women and child welfare minister, Krishna Tirath, said on January 11. The move is in response to a recent survey by the Naandi Foundation for the Citizens Alliance against Malnutrition, which revealed that 42 percent of children under the age of five are underweight, of whom 59 percent are "stunted". Calling the results a "national shame” the prime minister said hunger levels are still too high in India despite impressive economic growth. India ranked 67 among 84 countries on the 2010 Global Hunger Index, behind many sub-Saharan countries, despite a three-fold increase in food production over the last two decades. Rohini Mukherjee, the report team leader, said: "The findings show there is low or no awareness on what will make a child healthy and well nourished. “It's not like most of the children here are starving. India boasts of one of the world’s largest free school-meal programs. It's just that they are not eating the right things or following standard norms of cleanliness. It's a knowledge issue here." Mukherjee added: "What is therefore needed here is a multi-level information campaign.” Related links: Malnutrition deaths alarm Church people  
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