Chhattisgarh expedites efforts to fight malnutrition during COVID-19

With rise in child malnutrition and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in Chhattisgarh, the state has decided to accelerate its efforts to provide nutritional and basic health services to children and women. It was shared in a webinar organized by UNICEF in collaboration with Department of Women and Child Development of Chhattisgarh.

Speaking to the media persons, R Prasanna, Secretary of the Department of Women and Child Development said that “Government has taken a series of steps for ensuring nutrition of children, pregnant women and lactating mothers in the state, since the closure of anganwadi centres in March. This includes delivery of dry ration at the doorsteps of houses every month and provision of additional nutrition services under the Chief Minister Suposhan Abhiyan”. He added that anganwadi centres are being opened to ensure two nutrition and health services – hot-cooked meal to children and women; and immunization of children and health checkup of pregnant women. All precautions have been taken to mitigate the risks of COVID. The centres will be opened only with the consent of the local government and the people in the area.

Job Zachariah, Chief, UNICEF Chhattisgarh said that “Global evidence shows that malnutrition (wasting) among children will increase by 14% due to COVID. As malnutrition is the root cause of child death, we need to prevent malnutrition. Children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) need special attention and they should be referred to the nutrition rehabilitation centres in the state”. Mr. Zachariah suggested 12 globally proven actions that would prevent malnutrition among children.

Both the speakers emphasized the role of media in building perception in the public to act and changing attitudes of communities to fight malnutrition.

As part of its accelerated efforts to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition and anaemia in children and women in the context of COVID19, the government decided to open to provide a hot cooked meal to children of 3-6 years and pregnant women and health services early this month.  To allay the fears of people about COVID19, Department of Women and Child Development has also issued clear guidelines outlining precautions that need to be taken at the centres including physical distancing, wearing of a mask, washing hands with soap and sanitization of children and women. The department has also issued directions to ensure the food is cooked safely, served in clean utensils and the place is well sanitized. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-IV, about 38% of children below 5 years are malnourished, and 42% of children are anaemic in the state. About 47% of women and 46% of adolescent girls are anaemic. Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in Chhattisgarh has also increased from 38 to 41 per 1000 live births.

(Cover Photo: UNICEF/UN0238955/Vishwanathan)

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